Arts & Leisure

How to care for your pets during a pandemic

Homeward Bound, Addison County’s Humane Society, encourages pet owners to plan and prepare — but not to panic — about the impact that COVID-19 may have on their four-legged family members.
Pet owners can ease some of the fear of the unknown by taking steps to make a care plan in the event that they become sick or otherwise unable to care for their pets. The essentials of a care plan include a 30-day supply of food and necessary medications, a list detailing the pets in the house, veterinarian’s contact information, the names and contact information of at least two people willing and able to care for your pet (it’s a good idea to provide authorization for your veterinarian to talk to these identified people), and traveling supplies (crates, leashes, harnesses, food/water bowls, familiar toys/blankets etc.) in one easy-to-access place. 
Pet owners will be better prepared to act once a care plan is in place. If you become sick, first limit your interactions with a pet to the extent that is realistic and have others in the household provide pet care. While there is no evidence that domestic pets can transmit COVID-19 to people, it is possible that their fur, like any surface, could transmit the virus from one person to another. However, according to Dr. Tim Lahey, an infectious disease doctor at the University of Vermont, it is important to keep perspective. 
Dr. Lahey says, “We have to be realistic about things like this… Dogs and cats may not understand this logic, and we may need some pet affection in a trying time. This gets to an important point: we should take reasonable measures to lower transmission risk, but at a certain point we have to accept the risk will never be zero. We have to find a way to live our lives in the middle of an epidemic.”
People who live alone can continue to care for their pets to the extent that they are able. If that becomes overwhelming, they can turn to one of the people in their care plan or turn to Homeward Bound and enroll the pet in the shelter’s Pets in Crisis program. 
The program started out as a way to provide a safe haven for pets of people experiencing domestic violence but it has grown to include the pets of anyone who is facing housing trauma. Since the Governor’s Declaration of Emergency, Homeward Bound has opened up the program to anyone who is directly affected by COVID-19. The program provides free boarding and care for pets for a minimum of two weeks. 
Homeward Bound is prepared to accept pets from COVID-19-exposed households and, following the “abundance of caution” model recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and the American Veterinary Medical Association, will be quarantining these pets for 14 days before sending them into foster or adoptive homes.
— Jessica Danyow, Homeward Bound Executive Director

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