Category Archives: COVID-19

Podcast Summary: The Eviction Crisis-What it is and How to Prepare

 

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, many are worrying about the ever-looming threat of eviction once federal and state eviction moratoria expire around the country. Because of this, many animal welfare organizations are wondering if they will have a sudden influx of pets as a result.

stock image: depositphotos.com

In a recent People are Animals Too, Darn it podcast episode entitled, “The Eviction Crisis: What it is and How to Prepare” host Melanie Sadek discussed the impending eviction with attorney Abby Volin, founder and president of Opening Doors PLLC, a team of animal accommodation experts who help residential & commercial property managers, tenants & residents, universities, employers, & healthcare providers, welcome animals through their front door. Sadek and Volin also discuss the steps that animal welfare organizations can take to prepare for the upcoming housing crisis.

Opening Doors helps animal welfare organizations develop tools that expand housing options for people with pets. Some key points made during the podcast include:

  • Housing is the number one factor determining the health of a community, making housing insecurity a public health crisis.
  • During the COVID moratoria, most states are waiving fees associated with not paying rent, but tenants will be responsible for paying back rent eventually.
  • Eviction processes vary by state and municipality. Certain aspects are consistent:
    • A landlord CANNOT evict their tenant – they can only start a proceeding.
    • A JUDGE is the only one with the power to evict – the time period between the landlord’s notice (the “cure” time) and the start of an eviction proceeding varies state to state.
    • The landlord must clarify how much time renters have to cure the problem before any kind of court proceeding will begin.
    • “Self-help eviction” is prohibited in most states – where the landlord comes in and changes the locks or throws the tenants belongings out of the property.
    • A judge usually must give additional notice during the proceedings for removal from the property (i.e. they typically cannot say “you had 30 days to rectify, you must be out by tomorrow”).
      • After the proceedings, the eviction notice still has to be delivered to the tenant, who is given a specific period of time to vacate
      • After the predetermined period of time, a Marshall will come carry out eviction. Marshalls are the only individuals who can remove a tenant’s belongings out of the rental property.
  • Prior eviction puts a bad mark on a person’s record, making landlords wary of renting to that person in the future. After being evicted, it becomes more difficult to be accepted as a tenant in the future.

The best solution animal welfare organizations can provide is to help find a way to keep a person and their pet together.

  • Encourage individuals to call neighbors, friends or coworkers to see if someone can take them in temporarily. The shelter can provide items such as a crate, food, etc.

Additional tips for animal welfare organizations which want to help the community during this crisis include:

  • Develop tools to help community members understand their rights by making a chart that includes:
    • Reasons a tenant can be evicted.
    • How much notice is required between an eviction notice and the start of court proceedings.
    • What’s the retaliation statute (when a landlord acts in response to a tenant standing up for their rights) in the community?
    • How much does the state/municipality allow for a security deposit? This is the maximum that can be asked (pet deposit + security deposit can’t exceed this).
  • Work with other human service providers in the community, such as meals-on-wheels or social work organizations, to better support pet owners.
  • Get involved with the local tenant’s association and share with them available resources for tenants with pets that may be struggling.
  • Partner with behaviorists and trainers to help keep animals out of the shelter and in their homes.
  • Poll volunteers and fosters – is there a lawyer in this group that can help with gathering this info or an organization to partner with?

To listen to the podcast, click on this link: http://peopleareanimalstoo.com/2020/07/episode-31-the-eviction-crisis-whats-coming-and-how-to-prepare-with-abby-volin/

Additional resources:

Opening Doors: www.pawsopeningdoors.com

More episodes of “People are Animals Too, Darnit!”: www.peopleareanimalstoo.com

 

Summary: ASPCApro’s “Safe Workplace Playbook for Animal Shelters” (Released August 2020)

The ASPCA just released ASPCOpro’s Safe Workplace Playbook for Animal Shelters (August 2020), which includes COVID-19 processes, procedures, and guidance (consistent with the CDC’s guidelines) for safely carrying out daily shelter activities in the time of COVID-19. Sections provide separate guidance for staff/volunteers and managers.

The playbook is meant to be used as a jumping off point from which individual shelters can create program specific protocols.

Physical Distancing

Learn 10 steps staff and volunteers can take to maintain physical distancing, emphasizing that “self-awareness and accountability for our own actions are key to assuring everyone’s safety.” In order to achieve the recommended physical distancing, it is necessary to limit occupancy in the shelter. Two physical distancing checklists are included, one for shelter managers and one for “On the Road and in the Field.” Physical distancing by clients and partner agencies is also required.

Hygiene & Cleaning

Consistency is key, both at home and at work! Hygiene practices are split into two sections, one for staff and volunteers and the other for managers. Identify key times to enact handwashing and a list of cleaning practices during COVID-19.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Did you know there is a correct way to put on a mask and take it off?  While not technically PPE, face masks are essential in mitigating the spread of COVID-19. This section discusses safe mask practices and putting on, wearing, removing, and laundering that is essential for keeping people safe during this pandemic.

Here are additional resources on PPE from the playbook:

Screening & Monitoring

Create a screening and monitoring process for staff and volunteers through use of this checklist, including a Daily Self-Screening Questionnaire.

Working with Animals

Managers and staff are provided with checklists of precautions to take to reduce COVID-19. Since the greatest risk of COVID-19 transmission is from person to person contact, the playbook breaks down the steps and precautions both managers and staff should take to reduce COVID-19 transmission.

Business Travel

The playbook provides guidance for key areas of consideration and precautions to take to stop the spread of COVID-19 during essential business travel:

  • Before you leave
  • What to pack
  • During your trip
  • Travel by car
  • Hotels
  • Air travel

Additional resources from TSA and CDC on travel are listed.

More Information

ASPCOpro recommends appointing a Site Manager and Assistant Site Manager to liaise with the shelter staff and leadership team. Duties of the Site Manager are provided.

The playbook also provides three additional COV ID-19 resources: ASPCAPro COVID-19 Information Hub; AVMA (COVID-19 section); CDC (COVID-19 section).

Here is the link to download the full pdf version of the ASPCApro Safe Workplace Playbook for Animal Shelters.

HSUS/HSLF release key U.S. policy recommendations to prevent another global health crisis rooted in poor treatment of animals

On May 14th, 2020, the Humane Society Legislative Fund (HSLF) and Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) released a statement, calling for the U.S. to implement 11 key policy changes to help prevent future pandemics like COVID-19. Written by Sara Amundson and Kitty Block and published on the HSLF blog, the article stated “governments can and should implement [these recommended changes] to prevent another global health crisis rooted in our poor treatment of animals.”

Though this initial article did not give specific details on how these changes could be made, it did link to an HSUS blog post that gave further details about each of the 11 recommended policies, focused on 5 key areas: wildlife, factory farming, animal testing, companion animals, and animal fighting.

Here are the 11 recommendations:

  1. Shut down wildlife markets permanently around the world.
  2. End the trade of live wild animals.
  3. Ban close encounters with wild animals and their use in traveling shows.
  4. End fur farming and fur trade.
  5. Move to a better system than the current intensive confinement of farm animals.
  6. Shift the global food industry’s focus to plant-based proteins.
  7. Fund alternatives to animal testing.
  8. End the sale of dogs from puppy mills.
  9. End the dog and cat meat trade.
  10. Manage street dog populations.
  11. Pass and enforce strong laws on cockfighting.

On July 13, 2020, HSUS and HSLF released “The Animal Connection: Policies to prevent another global health crisis,” a 24 page document providing an in-depth description of each of the 11 policy recommendations initially stated a few months earlier on March 14th, along with specific actions U. S. lawmakers should take to implement them.

COVID-19 has demonstrated just how far reaching and devastating the consequences of a pandemic can be. Just as COVID-19 has affected nearly every facet of life, so could a future pandemic, including one with dramatically higher mortality rates. Therefore, it is critical that government and the private sector make key policy changes to help prevent future disease outbreaks….

The Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society Legislative Fund’s science-based policy recommendations to reduce the risks of another global health crisis would not only help limit future outbreaks of disease—and stop the resulting human and economic toll—but they would also strengthen our social, cultural, economic and political commitments to the better treatment of animals (pg. 23)

To read the full article and recommendations made by HSUS and HSLF, click here.

What is HASS?

 

My shelter colleague mentioned something about a program called HASS. What is it?

HASS is an acronym that stands for Human Animal Support Services. It’s both a philosophy of sheltering that is centered around community needs and the human-animal bond, and a pilot program being tested by a few dozen shelters across the US and HASS logoCanada. The main goal of HASS is to reconfigure shelter programs to keep animals out of the shelter and in the community as much as possible in order to better help those animals and the community members who care for them.

The HASS idea arose from weekly zoom conversations facilitated by a sheltering organization called American Pets Alive (the national educational arm of Austin Pets Alive, a Texas-based rescue organization) and sponsored by Maddie’s Fund. The weekly American pets Alive (AmPA) conversations are open to anyone in sheltering. These Monday morning calls regularly have five hundred to a thousand participants. Although the conversations initially started out as a way to keep up with the latest COVID-19 information and recommendations as shelters adapted to operating only essential activities during the early days of the pandemic, discussions have taken off in many directions. Some of the conversations stemming from the AmPA calls include the lack of diversity, equity and inclusion in animal sheltering; racial disparities in animal control enforcement and shelter adoption policies; challenges to the idea that being in a shelter is a better thing for any animal whether owned or stray; and how to deal with push-back from boards and local government when enacting reforms.

The current HASS model includes 12 elements:

  1. Animal protection and public safety services that focus on support, education, access to care, and providing needed resources, not punishment
  2. Helping lost pets find their way home without impoundment by providing direct support and assistance to finders and seekers
  3. Providing tools for self-rehoming with shelter support including tools like Home to Home and Rehome.
  4. Easy access to remote help from the shelter for community members
  5. Keeping families together by providing animal medical, housing, and behavioral support to community members
  6. Accessible telehealth services for pet owners, foster caretakers, and finders of injured/sick animals.
  7. A focus on individual case management to help people keep pets, assist with rehoming, and in finding lost pets
  8. Intake-to-placement pathways identified before or at shelter entry to reduce length of stay in shelter or foster
  9. Emphasis on foster as the default placement for pets entering the shelter system; placement in adoptive homes directly from foster homes
  10. Sheltering mainly for emergency medical, short-term housing, and urgent public safety cases
  11. Engagement of volunteers in every aspect of HASS
  12. Partnerships with human social services organizations, vet practices, rescue groups, and the communities served by the shelter

Some of these elements are a bit redundant and will likely be streamlined as HASS pilot shelters implement their new protocols and discover where the overlaps are. And none of these elements are new- many shelters have been implementing smaller versions of these programs for years. The major difference is the scale involved and the obvious need to re-train intake staff in case management and re-allocate animal care staff to support foster parents who will be providing a bulk of the care in some communities. In some jurisdictions, laws and ordinances may need revision before certain elements can be legally enacted. And tracking how much owners and animals are assisted outside of the classic intake/shelter model will require new metrics; simple intake-outcome equations will no longer accurately measure shelter success.

The HASS conversation is still a work in progress. For more information, please explore the HASS website . To get involved in one of the working groups or to see how your shelter can start implementing some of these programs, please use the contact information available here.

Resuming Animal Relocation Programs in the Time of COVID-19

Re-location of companion animals for adoption in the time of COVID-19 requires extra attention to travel restrictions, hand-off procedures, and the reduction of bottlenecks to services to reduce length of stay.  Many organizations are excited to re-launch relocation programs, and fortunately there are some great resources for doing so safely and humanely.

Comprehensive Toolkit

Tips and Tricks

Sample Protocol

  • Maine’s COVID-19 Transport Protocol: Need a protocol for that?  This document from ME is a good example of a transport SOP you can edit to write your own. The Maine Federation of Humane Societies, in conjunction with the HSUS, developed these sample documents. Review the protocols >>

Webinar and more….

Modeling of Effect of PAUSE on TNR Programs: An ACC&D Video Report

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, many organizations who engage in feral, community and shelter cat spay-neuter programs halted their surgical operations. In late February and early March, the unknown virus levels and spread in our community, the scarcity of surgical supplies and PPE, and the fear of feline SARS-CoV-2 infections caused uncertainty about continuing with normal operations. Many organizations agonized over this choice and worried that years of hard fought spay-neuter progress would unravel. So, did it?

Although the empirical data is not yet in, epidemiological modelers working with the Alliance for Contraception for Cats and Dogs (ACC&D) have created a short video report about using their supercomputing skills to try and answer that question. Epidemiological models take selected elements of an ecosystem and try to predict what will happen when conditions are manipulated. You may recognize one of these models as the viral pandemic “infection curve,” steep when people gather as usual, and flatter when citizens wear masks, wash hands, and physically distance. The same sort of graph can be used to describe the effects on a cat population when a spay-neuter program is enacted.

What the ACC&D modelers illustrated was this: High intensity targeted TNR programs — defined as 75% sterilization of a cat population with re-captures every 6 months — maintain the cat population level at about 50-60% of their pre-program population after a few years. If the year-long pause is in year 2 or later of the TNR program, the cat population does not grow much at all (~5%). All growth is from emigration, abandonment, or one or two un-captured females having litters. And it takes only one subsequent year to bring the population back down to pre-pause levels.

Lower intensity TNR programs — defined as sterilizing only 25% of one cat population with recaptures every 6 months — generally maintain the cat population level at about 70-80% of their pre-program population after a few years. A year-long pause in these programs adds more cats (~10%,) because more of the population is fertile, but emigration and abandonment can also play a part. Because of the lower intensity of trapping, it takes a couple more years to catch up. The good news is that increasing the intensity of trapping easily makes up for that lost time, and doesn’t cost any more in the long term.

These models are heartening theoretical evidence that pausing to catch our breath and gather information about COVID for a few months will not erode our years of spay-neuter work. They also illustrate the importance of intensive targeting for TNR programs if population reduction is the main goal; the greater the proportion of a population we can sterilize and maintain, the more lasting and effective that intervention will be in the long run.

 

ASPCA Cornell Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Conference to be held online in 2020

 

July 11-12, 2020 | All Online | Tuition Waived!

To bring you the critical, timely information you need in a safe way, this year’s conference will take place virtually from July 11-12, 2020, and registration fees will be waived. Featuring twelve free workshops in two tracks—medical and operations—the 2020 ASPCA® Cornell Maddie’s® Shelter Medicine Conference is a unique educational opportunity for veterinarians and other animal welfare professionals to learn from our field of highly regarded speakers. Both RACE and CAWA CE approval is pending. Click here to learn more and register.

Highlights of this year’s conference include:

  • A high-quality, high-volume spay/neuter (HQHVSN) panel discussion featuring Drs Phil Bushby, Emily McCobb, Leslie Appel, and Karla Brestle
  • Epidemiological modeling of COVID-19 from Dr. Rachel Kreisler
  • Access to basic veterinary care and the impacts of COVID-19 from Dr. Brittany Watson
  • A panel discussion on COVID-19 response and what tactics to keep

Download agenda

And there are more benefits to attending, too:

  • Quick, easy, and free registration
  • An entirely virtual format, allowing more team members to attend from the comfort of their own homes—no stressful, long travel required!
  • The opportunity to learn from experts in their fields
  • Critical workshops geared towards COVID-19 response
  • Continuing education credits*

Register now!

#ThanksToMaddie

Visualizing the pandemic’s effect on animal shelter intake and outcomes

Many of us, especially in the early days of this pandemic, were glued to graphical representations and epidemiological curves showing how the SARS-CoV-2 virus was affecting our county, state, and country. Some preferred log scales to linear; some preferred animated graphics that followed locations over time, some just wanted to know if cases (or deaths) were going up or down. Seeing the graphs helps to understand (a bit) the current situation and how we may use it to predict the future.

Shelters have been asking similar questions: What is happening in regards to animal intake, outcome and foster in the ~3500 animal shelters in our country in these strange times? Is it the same for cats as dogs? Is it the same in different parts of the country? What about the differences in COVID-19 impacts on municipal shelters vs non-profits vs rescue organizations?

Luckily, some data is available. The first to publish trends in the time of COVID-19 was 24Pet®, the company behind 24hour PetWatch microchips and the animal management software PetPoint. PetPoint is used in 1191 animal shelters which have data for both 2019 and 2020, and the company has pulled weekly statistics since March 12, 2020 to illustrate trends. Here is the information from a recent week:

Visualization post image 3

This visualization shows the total shelter intakes (n=202,761) in 1191 US shelters using PetPoint software and how this time compares to the same shelters last year (-45% for dogs, -47% for cats). Foster care and adoptions are reported the same way. In the second column, particularly populous states are highlighted, illustrating some interesting geographical differences.

This report is easy to follow because it is weekly, and covers a range of shelters across the country. It is the only report that looks at foster pets, which is a significant and interesting phenomenon in our industry’s response to the pandemic. New York is being highlighted here, but not everyone gets to see their state’s stats (and it is the same three states every week). What is missing from this visualization is any sense of where we are going as an industry, and what is happening to other outcomes. How are transports going? Are adoptions low because we are just euthanizing everyone? Some of these answers are available in the raw data if you scroll down, but are not in the visualization.

Shelter Animals Count [SAC] is a non-profit organization that solicits basic data from as many US animals shelters as they can, but only on a monthly basis. Monthly charts comparing the 1598 shelters and rescue groups who chose to share their data in 2020 and 2019 have been shared. There is a new data tool, the Covid-19 Impact Dashboard, which is available on the SAC? website. Here’s what that looks like:

Visualization post image 4

This visualization gives you the raw numbers of intakes, and live and “other” outcomes when you mouse over them, and provides a comparison year over year. The line-graph style of monthly intake reporting is extremely helpful, since it shows changes over time and imply a trajectory (though who knows what will happen next month.) And, interestingly, if you look at the national SAC data, it matches the 24Pet® data pretty closely. (The reason for this may be that many of the same shelters using PetPoint also report data to SAC.)

The most powerful part of this dashboard tool is the three little bars in the upper right corner of the screen. On the website, clicking these bars allows a user to select a region, a sub-region, a species, or an organizational type. This allows for comparison of national data (above) to:

just the Northeast                       just the mid-Atlantic                     or just mid-Atlantic cats.

Visualization post image 2

It also provides answer to some of those burning questions: for example, are the animals who are not coming into animal shelters right now just being taken into rescues instead?

Rescue shelters only

Visualization post image 1

Although this data set only includes a tiny number of rescue organizations who choose to report to SAC (n=649), it looks like the answer is probably no. It also seems that these rescue groups have not really changed their intake practices at all during this pandemic.

This data illustrates the limit of this information and its visualization: what these beautiful graphics do not show us is why. However, understanding national and regional trends alongside our own local experiences enables us to make more informed decisions and predictions.

The COVID-19 Spay Neuter and Wellness Clinic Preparedness Guide: a quick-list summary and link

 

Here are the highlights from the full-length  COVID-19 Spay/Neuter and Wellness Clinic Guide which provides guidance on how to follow physical distancing guidelines while safely performing spay/neuter surgeries. Where possible, links from original document have been included. This guide is being updated regularly by a collaborative team of clinic experts and is hosted by Best Friends.

COMMUNITY PREPAREDNESS

Consult local authorities and stay up to date on the COVID-19 status in your community, as well as in other communities you might be traveling to. Key metrics in most states include rates of COVID-19 related hospitalizations in your area, access to testing, and availability of PPE for programs.

DECISION-MAKING TO CONTROL DISEASE TRANSMISSION

Decision making bubble graph
Image from original COVID-19 S/N Guide document.

Provide for staff safety and support:

  • Follow state and local guidelines for testing and self-quarantine of employees exposed to COVID-19.
  • Have back-up staff on call and communicate your clinic’s operating status and action plan to all staff in case clinic closure is necessary.
  • Have regular team check-ins at the start of each day that cover roles, strategies, challenges and other updates. See this sample checklist.

Create a clinic protocol for when a staff member tests positive for SARS-CoV2:

  • Develop a protocol and share with staff BEFORE this happens. Read this guidance summary created from CDC recommendations for help writing protocols. Also visit the AVMA website.
  • Have a plan to reassess staffing and adjust capacity, staff roles, and workload accordingly.
  • Review the CARES ACT and be aware of what you are required to provide employees.

Train staff and volunteers in adapted clinic operations without compromising social distancing:

  • Hold regular online (Zoom, Microsoft Teams, GoToMeetings) video meetings to discuss scheduling, etc.
  • Give staff and volunteers a virtual tour of the clinic and new operation items.

PRIORITIZING PATIENTS

Determine how many surgeries your clinic is comfortable performing before you reopen. Consider phasing in services over time according to their priority.

Priority patients for spay/neuter services:

  • pregnant animals or those at risk of becoming pregnant
  • intact animals exhibiting problematic behaviors (i.e. male dogs humping/marking)
  • those in need of emergency procedures

Priority clients include those:

  • who are insecure about housing intact animals
  • who are managing community cats
  • who have recently adopted their animals

Priority considerations for vaccine and wellness clinics:

  • puppies and kittens
  • animals overdue for rabies vaccines
  • those with conditions that will affect welfare if delayed

CAPACITY FOR CARE

The physical space available to work in will determine your staffing plan and surgical patients you can serve each day.

Physical capacity:

  • Provide 60 square foot minimum (six-foot radius) per staff member/volunteers whenever possible.
  • Assign one staff member per station.
  • Staff should be six feet apart and not facing each other. Provide PPE when this is not possible
  • Avoid sharing equipment like stethoscopes
  • Mark out visual reminders on the floor: one-way traffic patterns; six-foot distances
  • Re-purpose areas to make multiple intake and recovery areas that are individually staffed.

Staff capacity:

  • Create multiple surgical teams that are scheduled at different times and/or work in different areas (Sample protocol: Creating Staff Teams for Spay/Neuter Clinics).
  • Develop a schedule; identify how many hours staff can work and what risks they have; include time for scheduled deep cleaning when assessing how many days your team can do surgery safely.
  • Assess volunteers the same as staff and consider reallocating remote jobs to employees and volunteers for whom working in the clinic poses a risk.
  • Stagger break times. Limit the number of people allowed in the break room at the same time.

Surgical supplies and PPE:

  • Inventory supplies to determine how many patients can be served.
  • Expect ongoing shortages of surgical masks, surgical gloves, disposable drape materials, disposable gowns , and anesthetic drugs.
  • Open accounts with multiple distributors (MWI, Patterson, Midwest) for increased access to supplies.

PPE:

  • Expectation for PPE and hand hygiene in clinics:
    • Make sinks easily accessible. Keep them stocked with soap and single use paper towels at all times. Provide hand sanitizer stations where sinks are not available.
    • Train staff to avoid touching their face or each other and consistently disinfect shared equipment.
    • Provide PPE for all staff and volunteers.
    • Cloth masks are to be worn at all times in the clinic (one mask per 4 hours/washed daily and dried completely before reuse).
    • Per CDC recommendations, clinic staff should wear goggles or face shield in addition to mask, gown, and gloves when handling animals with respiratory disease. Provide face shields for procedures requiring multiple people.
  • Consider these innovative solutions when facing supply shortages.

ANESTHETIC CONSIDERATIONS

Capacity of pharmaceuticals, including anesthetics and analgesics

  • Inventory all pharmaceuticals, including controlled drugs.
  • Aim to use only veterinary-specific drugs as shortages in drugs shared with human medicine are anticipated. Here is up-to-date information on drug shortages

Alternative anesthetic protocols for spay/neuter:

  • Alternative protocols providing multi-modal analgesics for spay/neuter are summarized here.
  • Dosing charts for TTD (butorphanol, tiletamine-zolazepam, and dexmedetomidine) can be found here. TTD is preferred for cats (IM induction, less handling, better recoveries).
  • Train staff in monitoring and safety parameters before implementing new protocols.
  • Give anxiolytic medications at the beginning of the clinic to enable easier restraint and reduce stress. Options include: (1) oral trazodone and/or gabapentin to dogs, and (2) gabapentin for cats.

CLIENT COMMUNICATIONS

Provide clear instructions (website, social media, email, phone) for scheduling, payments, clinic check-in procedures, and social distancing. Sample signage: Sample 1, Sample 2, Sample 3

  • Provide FAQS on how the clinic now works.
  • Build payment collection into the appointment process.
  • Communicate which services are being prioritized and those that are not currently being offered.

Scheduling and social distancing:

  • Ask clients questions when scheduling to ascertain if the client is sick: Wait to schedule pets from COVID-positive households until those in the household are not contagious.
  • Reduce the amount of time staff interacts with clients by taking appointments by phone or online ahead of time, pre-entering services requested, taking relevant medical history. Verify this information at check-in.
  • Reduce paper handling by emailing or digitizing surgical consent/admin/intake forms to the clients ahead of time using software like Clinic HQ, or companies like DocuSign or HelloSign.
  • Stagger check-in times by species to reduce the amount of people and pets in your parking lot.
  • Utilize “touchless payments” (see CDC recommendation) wherever possible; either online (PayPal, Venmo) or by phone.

INTAKE PROTOCOLS AND SOCIAL DISTANCING

Curbside intake:

  • Clients remain in vehicle while staff come to them to complete intake information. Communicate directions to clients (email, website, social media) ahead of time and post signage at parking lot entrances.
  • Assign each car a number on a piece of paper and place under vehicle windshield wiper. Consider using online restaurant wait system like WaitlistMe.com or TablesReady.com.
  • Provide tents to protect staff from rain and sun.
  • Set up a table outside for leashes, pens, muzzles and sanitation wipes for carriers. Use of clipboards is not recommended.
  • Pets in open-bed pickup trucks or cats not contained inside a carrier should move to the head of the line.
  • Wipe the handle of the carrier or trap handle before and after transporting.
  • Staff should wash their hands and arms when done with check-in and change clothes before working in the clinic.
  • For vaccine and wellness clinics, owners can either wait in the car until services are completed or owners can drop off pets and return later to pick them up. Discuss treatment options with clients over the phone. Other ideas about vaccine clinics can be found here.

Contact-free or limited-contact client check-in:

  • Start contact-free drop-off for shelter/rescue partners and TNR programs. Use a visual doorbell system (Ring) to announce arrival. Place empty carriers for partners to drop-off animals in the front vestibule or lobby.
  • Limit drop-off to one person per pet. Limit the number of clients allowed in the clinic at one time.
  • Mark lines six feet apart on the floor and provide signage as a reminder of social distancing.
  • Discourage cash payments.

PAPERWORK AND RECORD-KEEPING

OPTION 1 – Minimal paper:

  • Send consent forms ahead of time for signatures and use software capable of auto-populating (Clinic HQ, Microsoft Word) your admission document.
  • For TNR clinics, label cats as Cat 1, Cat 2, Cat 3, etc. The color of the cat and/or trap ID number can be written on the document when cats are admitted to the clinic.
  • Use a one-page surgical record or “treatment sheet” primarily written on by one staff member. to track drugs, surgery reports, and additional findings. Here is an example.

OPTION 2 – Paperless:

  • Use a tablet in the parking lot in place of printed documents.
  • Print the patient’s packet of information on the spot once the once the animal enters the clinic to ensure the correct paperwork stays with the animal.
  • For an entirely paperless system, assign a scribe with a laptop to all record-keeping.

OPTION 3 – Paper with additional biosecurity:

  • Handle paperwork as little as possible. Have a single staff member (wearing a face mask and gloves) handle and process paperwork from clients and paperwork going home.
  • Sanitize items handled by the public (pens, clipboards, etc.) between use.

Discharge protocols and social distancing:

  • Email discharge papers or text photo clients prior to pick-up, making sure they have enough data to not incur a charge from this. Call clients to discuss unplanned findings or procedures.
  • If email or text are not an option, call clients and go over post-operative instructions. Mail vaccination certificates and other paperwork.
  • Provide a link to a post-surgery video and post-op instructions on your website. Sample video.
  • Structure pick-up in the same manner as intake.

POST-OPERATIVE CARE

Telemedicine:

  • Offer rechecks virtually. Check the Veterinary Telemedicine Platform Facebook page for suggestions on platforms or consider other video conferencing platforms (Pet Connect).
  • Check this site from the American Association of Veterinary State Boards for updated changes for individual states regarding telemedicine.

Pharmacy:

  • Put take-home medications in labelled bottle, sanitize, put in clean bin, distribute at check-out.
  • Use online pharmacy (Covetrus, Vetsource) to bill and send clients medications directly.
  • Prescriptions can be filled at the clinic and either sent to client by mail or through contact-less pick up by placing them in labelled bottles and leaving them at pre-determined location.

Financial considerations and mitigating risk:

  • Use this excel template for help revising budgetary plans.
  • Consider opportunities to reduce supply costs yet still maintain high-quality care.

Continue reading The COVID-19 Spay Neuter and Wellness Clinic Preparedness Guide: a quick-list summary and link

Guidance for caretakers for pets of COVID-19 positive patients

FAQ: A friend or family member has tested positive for COVID-19 and may be hospitalized. They have asked me to care for their pet. Can I do that, and how?

Thanks for asking, and for offering to help your friend. The following advice is based on current knowledge and research and the CDC’s interim recommendations for caring for pets of COVID-19 positive owners. It is important to know the risks and decide for yourself, in conversation with your physician and your family, on whether you can perform these duties.

You likely have these options:

  • the pet can stay in its own home and you can care for it there (ideal for cats, small mammals primarily)
  • the pet may be taken to your home and cared for there
  • the pet may be able to go to a boarding facility

Things to consider:

  • SARS-CoV2 has been reported to be found present on surfaces such as metal and hard plastic for up to 3 days. The home of an infected person likely has live virus on surfaces for several days after they leave.
  • According to the CDC and AVMA, there is no evidence that pets act in the transmission of SARS-COV2 to people. However, the virus can live on surfaces for hours to days, and so the home of a COVID-19 patient is more likely to be of risk to you than the pet.
  • There have been rare reports that cats and dogs can contract SARS-COV2 through close contact with their sick owners; again, there is no evidence that they transmit it back to humans.
  • There is some potential that cats, if they become ill or share litterboxes, may transmit it to other cats. Again, we still believe this to be rare.
  • The primary goals here are to provide ongoing humane care to the pet, minimize stress to pets and humans, and minimize possible cross contamination from the infected home to your home.

Providing care for a pet in the owner’s home

  • Ensure that heating and cooling will remain on to provide a safe and comfortable temperature.
  • If at all possible, you should avoid entering the home.
  • For cats, simply slipping a few days’ worth of food/water/litter through the door from outside will likely be sufficient.
  • For dogs who are easy to handle, food and water may be slipped through the door from outside. The dog can be leashed as he comes to the door for a walk a few times a day and then placed back in the home without entering.
  • For fish, some reptiles and small mammals, care may not need to be feed as frequently, or could be provided a long-lasting food source, reducing the frequency of care visits.
  • For some dogs and other pets, it may be simpler to take them home or to a boarding kennel.
  • If you are planning to take the animal home with you, it is recommended to wait until at least 3 days have passed with no one living in the home,if possible; most of the virus present will have died during that time. If in-home care can be continued for 14 days (through the CDC recommended period for animals to be kept separate), or until the owner is able to resume care, that is ideal.
  • Exposure to the virus can be mitigated by following the measures to prevent exposure.

Measures to prevent exposure

  • For every visit use proper PPE: wear gloves, mask, and coveralls or additional piece(s) of clothing worn over your existing clothes that can be shed and placed in a bag to be washed once you leave the home. Shoe covers or another clean pair of shoes to put on before going home is advised.
  • Sanitize doorknobs and other surfaces you’ll be contacting frequently with disinfectant wipes or sprays.
  • After you leave the home and before you leave or contact your car, sanitize any items that you are taking with you (eg leash, food container, carrier). Remove your shoe covers or change your shoes. Carefully remove all PPE and place them in large plastic bags: one to be discarded and the other to be laundered or sanitized. Alternatively, if you are returning to the home, you can leave coveralls, extra shoes, and gloves at the entry to the home. Sanitize your hands frequently by hand washing or alcohol gel, including immediately following the removal of gloves.
  • Though the risk from animals is negligible, it is still recommended to minimize close contact (snuggling, licking, etc.) for 14 days based on CDC recommendations to shelters.

Retrieving a pet from an owner’s home

  • Check with the local health departments and/or your animal control agency for specific recommendations and potentially assistance in getting the animal. If at all possible, you should avoid entering the home.
  • If the animal can be passed to you without contact through the use of a carrier or by securely tying the dog’s leash, this is the best means of taking the animal from someone else.
  • If you must enter the home follow the guidance above to prevent exposure.
  • Minimize time in the home and avoid contact with household items.
  • Once outside, sanitize the surface of pet care supplies you are taking with you (leashes, bowls, food containers, etc.) using disinfecting wipes or sprays before removing your PPE. Place washable items belonging to the pet into the bag with your washable PPE.

Caring for an exposed pet in your home

  • Although it is theoretically possible for the pet to be carrying some viral particles on their fur, the AVMA and CDC agree that fur is highly unlikely to be a means of spreading the virus. Furthermore, there is no evidence of transmission of SARS-CoV2 from pets to people. These overly cautious steps will further minimize any chance of cross-contamination and exposure to your household.
  • Studies and extremely rare natural infections suggest dogs and cats are very very low risk to humans, if any. However, out of an abundance of caution the CDC recommends separating animals from COVID-positive homes from close contact with other pets and people for 14 days from the last point of contact with an infected person.
    • A separate space in your home should be prepared before you bring the animal home. This should be an area that is easily disinfected and contains limited household items.
    • Minimize interaction with multiple family members.
    • Any carriers or other items that came with the animal should be thoroughly cleaned with disinfectant or run through the laundry if applicable.
    • It is good general practice at any time to wash your hands after contact with an animal or their food, waste, or bedding
    • Do not bring items (other than medications and food in a closed container) from the home with you unless you can wash them immediately (beds, blankets, toys, even the leash).
  • For cats, in addition to keeping them separate from other pets and people for 14 days, they should not share litterboxes with non-exposed cats during the separation period.

Utilize a boarding facility

If a boarding facility has agreed to take the animal the same recommendations as for shelters are advised: no bathing, but a 14 day hold during which walking and basic care can be performed but close contact is limited. These 14 days are recommended to cover the extremely unlikely case the dog or cat has become infected. https://www.avma.org/resources-tools/animal-health-and-welfare/covid-19/interim-recommendations-intake-companion-animals-households-humans-COVID-19-are-present

Advice for all pet owners — Make a plan for your pets now.

  • Identify a friend or family member who will care for your pet in the event you become sick or injured. Once they agree, provide them with written permission to enter your home and access to a key.
  • Prepare a “go-bag” for your pet so that everything they need is in one convenient location. This will give the caretaker of your pet ample time to find more of your pet’s most important supplies. The “go-bag” should include everything your pet needs for at least two weeks including:
    • Food in a closed and wipeable container with instructions and the specific brand indicated
    • Medications with instructions
    • Other supplies (eg DAP, litter, favorite treats, harness)
    • A copy of medical records including recent vaccinations and veterinary contact information.

Sources:

https://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/emergencies/pet-disaster-prep-kit.html

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/animals.html?CDC_AA_refVal=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cdc.gov%2Fcoronavirus%2F2019-ncov%2Fprepare%2Fanimals.html

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/php/interim-guidance-managing-people-in-home-care-and-isolation-who-have-pets.html

https://vet.osu.edu/about-us/news/covid-19-and-animals#risk%20of%20infection

https://www.wormsandgermsblog.com/2020/03/articles/animals/dogs/covid-19-miscellaneous-faq/