Get the word out! Remind community members that having a plan in place for pets is critical; individuals who become sick or require hospitalization will need to have someone to take their animals. Reach out to local media and get them on board by doing a press release detailing your organization’s plans and encouraging individuals to prepare as well.
- Based on local demographics, have information available in languages other than English. In many communities this will be Spanish but gather details on what is needed in your area. Online translation services are readily available if there is not a staff person or volunteer with the capability of translating.
- When deciding on how to disseminate, take into account various perspectives, experiences, and the inequity in access to information that exists. Not every household has access to cable television or the internet. Use clear, concise language in your communications. Both the tone of messaging and paths for sharing matter greatly in reaching all pet owners in a community.
- People should identify a family member or friend who can care for pets if someone in the household becomes ill.
- Have crates, food and extra supplies on hand for quick movement of pets.
- Keep all animal vaccines up to date in the event boarding becomes necessary.
- Ensure all medications are documented with dosages and administering directions. Including the prescription from your veterinarian is also helpful.
- Pets should have identification: collar with ID tag and microchip (best practice is microchipping).
Note: Not everyone will have the financial means to meet the above recommendations. Consider the financial challenges many people will face during this crisis. Low wage families and people working hourly wage jobs will be hit hard with loss of income and no paid time off from work. There are many ways local shelters can support people caring for their pets and keep families together. Including but not limited to temporary housing for pets, donated supplies, pet food, subsidized veterinary services, transportation, etc.
Focus on Support
Currently and in the coming months, people living in poverty and in underserved communities who already experience barriers to accessing resources and affordable care and supplies for pets will have additional challenges. COVID-19 does not discriminate, people from all backgrounds and communities will be impacted. With the extreme income inequality and racial wealth gap that exists in the US, that means there will be significant differences in the resources people have to respond and react. However, there is a common love of and connection to animals that transcends socio-economic, racial, ethnic, and geographic boundaries. Honoring that bond with compassion and support, not judgement and punishment is a very simple yet impactful way to serve the community during this crisis.
Shelters are encouraged to:
- Manage messaging and fundraising responsibly. Avoid blaming people who are not prepared or unable to follow disaster recommendations. Instead share the urgency created by inequity and the need to fill the gaps.
- Do not demonize people who reach out with questions about owner surrender or the dangers of animal-human transmission. Make sure staff and volunteers have talking points that take into consideration the imbalance in news circulation, practice cultural humility (the practice of looking inward and examining implicit bias), and extend understanding and patience.
- Suspend fees and fines if as the shelter you have the oversight and if not, advocate for suspension of fees and fines by the authority agency. This includes but is not limited to return-to-owner and reclaim fees, enforcement of mandatory spay/neuter and licensing, and other punitive measures. Offering alternatives to punishment and penalties during this crisis is consistent with the actions of other fields and systems. As an example, many governors are prohibiting any disconnection of utilities or charging of late fees, and some are barring the eviction of any tenant during the state of emergency. In the criminal legal system, many jurisdictions are releasing pre-trial detainees and using diversion and other interventions to keep people from entering the system to begin with. Animal welfare should follow suit in finding ways to relieve some of burdens resulting from this crisis.
- Make a disaster plan for your pets
- Pet disaster preparedness kit from the CDC
- Pet disaster preparedness kit from Huff Technical Training
- Sample Disaster Plan for your pets from Humane Society of Pikes Peak Region
- Sample Disaster plan for your pets from Michigan Humane Society
- Sample Disaster Plan for your pets In Spanish and English from Houston SPCA
- Sample emergency kit for your pets from Tampa Bay SPCA
- Sample media release template
- Sample talking points for staff to answer questions from public from Oregon Humane Society
- Sample shelter closing press alert from Seattle Humane Society
- Petco statement about Pets and COVID-19
- Animal Care Emergency Programs from the USDA
- COVID-19 FAQ for pet owners from AVMA
- Coping with Coronavirus (COVID-19): Resources to Help Your Clinic and Your Community from HSVMA
Video communication for community: COVID-19 and your pet
- 10 Minutes with the experts - Why spay/neuter is not essential during COVID-19 response
- Temporary COVID-19 Spay/Neuter Adoption Policy Changes from BCSPCA
- Temporary COVID-19 Adoptions of Intact Pets Disclosure from BCSPCA
- Living with an Intact Female Dog from BCSPCA
- Living with an Intact Male Dog from BCSPCA
- Living with an Intact Female Cat from BCSPCA
- Living with an Intact Male Cat from BCSPCA
- Living with an Intact Female Rabbit from BCSPCA
- Living with an Intact Male Rabbit from BCSPCA
- Press Release: New emergency boarding grants help pet owners affected by COVID-19
- Course on COVID-19 by World Health Organization - This course covers the Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) measures required in order to:
- Be prepared and ready to respond to an outbreak, in particular, the one due to COVID-19.
- Limit human to human transmission by way of implementing WHO recommended IPC interventions.
- Identify, isolate and report suspect and confirmed cases.
Sample documents from shelters
- Sample media release template from The Association for Animal Welfare Advancement and The Humane Society of the United States
- Sample shelter closing press alert from Seattle Humane Society
- Sample latest updates web page from City of Toronto
- Sample COVID-19 Q&A for public from Humane Rescue Alliance
- Letter to volunteers encouraging safety from Pima Animal Center