Responding to COVID-19 concerns in the animal sheltering community  

Our Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program has been inundated with requests from veterinarians and animal shelters looking for reliable information for their humane organizations and communities.  Although the COVID-19 situation continues to rapidly evolve, there are good sources for policies, protocols, and practices that provide for greater human safety without sacrificing humane care. Many industry sites provide reliable and sound information for your community’s companion animal health professionals.   In this challenging time, we recommend:

  1. Consulting a reliable industry resource for general information on COVID-19 for animal shelters. We really like this one:
    • Animal Sheltering: https://www.animalsheltering.org/COVID19 – This site provides facts about the virus and transmission, up to date stats, and a link for online foster/volunteer training from AAWA.
  1. Shelters performing animal control duties should prioritize only essential ACO functions:
    • National Animal Control Association: https://www.nacanet.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/NACA-statement-re-Covid-19.pdf – Animal control functions need to be focused on only the most essential tasks. They should suspend all low priority/non-emergency activities (non-aggressive stray animal pickup, barking, leash law, nuisance, community cat, and conflict mitigation complaints), reduce shelter intake (emergency animals only, return to owner vs. impound, owners keep ill pets at home), and wear PPE in homes where someone has symptoms. A protocol for intake for ACOs is included.
  1. Reducing the intake of cats into the shelter through all humane means possible:
  1. Learning how to safely provide care for animals exposed to SARS-COV2, including intake procedures:
  1. Being open to all ideas. Agencies will likely need to release unaltered pets from shelters during this pandemic. Here’s why.
  1. Increasing the capacity of foster care programs. This is essential to reducing in-shelter inventory of animals and minimizing risk to shelter staff from COVID-19 exposure.  It also provides better welfare for shelter animals to be in a home environment, even if it is temporary.
  1. If possible, continue to provide pet food pantries for owners in need. Do this is the safest way possible:
  1. Pulling out all the stops to manage intake and support keeping pets in homes.
  1. Following veterinary specific sites for reliable information about the virus and quickly evolving science. The following  provide animal shelter kits, checklists, guides, and advice for veterinary professionals:

If you need help applying new information to your shelter’s particular challenge, please reach out to our shelter consultation service: sheltermedicine@cornell.edu