Keeping Pets Healthy Keeps People Healthy Too!

Studies have shown that the bond between people and their pets can increase fitness, lower stress, and bring happiness to their owners. You may have heard, however, that coronaviruses can infect animals and wondered whether your pets could get COVID-19 - or pass the virus to you.
 The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has updated its guidelines on how to keep pets safe from the novel coronavirus after several new cases of animals contracting COVID-19 were recently confirmed in the United States. "We are still learning about this virus, but it appears that it can spread from people to animals in some situations," the CDC states on its website.
Despite this new information, the CDC considers the risk of animals spreading the disease to humans to be very low. Scientists are tirelessly working to learn more about the new disease every day and more still needs to be discovered about the risks the virus poses to animals and humans alike.
In the meantime, the CDC recommends pet owners take extra precautions similar to what they take with humans. The CDC's new guidelines recommend pet owners to not let pets interact with other animals or people outside of their household, they should keep cats indoors and they should avoid dog parks or large public places with other animals.
Have a question in mind?
Check out the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Frequently Asked Questions to review expert recommendations and information. 
As stated by the American Kennel Club, "under no circumstances should owners abandon their dogs, cats, or other pets because of COVID-19 fears."

CDC Guidelines - Key Points

  • Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses. Some cause illness in people, and others cause illness in certain types of animals.
  • Some coronaviruses that infect animals can sometimes be spread to people, but this is rare.
  • We do not know the exact source of the current outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The first infections were thought to be linked to a live animal market, but the virus is now primarily spreading from person to person.
  • At this time, there is no evidence that animals play a significant role in spreading the virus that causes COVID-19.
  • Based on the limited information available to date, the risk of animals spreading COVID-19 to people is considered to be low.
  • We are still learning about this virus, but it appears that it can spread from people to animals in some situations.
  • The first case of an animal testing positive for the virus in the United States was in a tiger that had a respiratory illness at a zoo in New York City.
  • CDC is aware of a small number of pets, including cats and dogs, reported to be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, mostly after close contact with people with COVID-19.
  • Treat pets as you would other human family members – do not let pets interact with people or animals outside the household. If a person inside the household becomes sick, isolate that person from everyone else, including pets.
  • Further studies are needed to understand if and how different animals could be affected by the virus that causes COVID-19 and the role animals may play in the spread of COVID-19.
  • This is a rapidly evolving situation and information will be updated as it becomes available.
  • For more information, see the CDC's COVID-19 and Animals Frequently Asked Questions.

How To Adopt Or Foster During COVID-19

You don't need to self isolate completely alone: animal shelters encourage fostering or adopting a pet during the coronavirus pandemic. Hundreds of animals have been adopted in Western New York during the coronavirus pandemic, but others are still in need of homes. Local shelters and pet rescues want to remind people that pets are a long-term commitment, not just a companion during this time of social distancing. Potential adopters must meet all eligibility requirements before becoming a new pet parent.
On March 20, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo named “Animal Shelters” to the list of essential businesses in NYS.  In an effort to protect community members, patrons, volunteers, and staff members, many of Buffalo's local shelters are modifying their services. Be sure to contact the animal shelter or rescue to get up to date instructions of how they are providing their services.
Buffalo Animal Shelter
The Buffalo Animal Shelter has gone to appointment only adoptions. If you're interested in adopting from the City of Buffalo Animal Shelter, visit their website to fill out an adoption application, and someone will call you to set up an adoption appointment.
The SPCA Serving Erie County is scheduling adoption visits by appointment only. If you are interested in adopting an animal at the SPCA Serving Erie County, please call 716-875-7360, ext. 207 to schedule an appointment to visit the animals.
Niagara SPCA
The Niagara SPCA has turned to curbside adoptions during the pandemic. If you're interested in adopting, you have to call ahead and get pre-approved, then make an appointment for a meet and greet, including your whole family and current pets.

How To Help Pets During COVID-19

If you're like a lot of people currently home and glued to the news during this health crisis, you may feel like there’s not much you can do to help. The good news is that there are things you can do as an animal lover now to help animals in need during this unprecedented time. If you have pets at home, it's important for to include them in preparedness plans. The Niagara SPCA says you should identify a trusted family member or friend to care for your pets if someone becomes ill or hospitalized. 
1.) Help Your Neighbor
If you have neighbors who are self-quarantined or otherwise in need of help, make sure they have enough pet food, offer to walk their dog or to take pets for routine vet visits. (Be sure to follow the CDC’s guidance on interacting with quarantined individuals, make sure that local vet clinics are still open, and abide by their enhanced safety protocols.)
If you're in an illness-free household and can offer your home to a friend's pet in need, feel free to copy this image and and share on your social media pages.

2.) Volunteer
If you have the capacity to volunteer for local animal welfare organizations – even if from your home – reach out and see what support they need. Take an additional step and post those needs on your social media channels to spread the word.

3.) Donate
One of the fastest and simplest ways to help pets amidst the public health crisis is by giving a donation. Fundraisers and events for many pet shelters have been cancelled. Traffic from potential adopters has slowed, but there are still pets coming in, costs for care, and needs to be met. Click here to give to the City of Buffalo Animal Shelter, or read how you can support the Erie SPCA here. Due to safety concerns, the Niagara SPCA is not taking donations of used items, like beds or blankets. Instead, they ask that people buy an item off of their Amazon wish list or make a give a monetary gift

The Niagara SPCA is also doing shelter pet shout-outs. For a $50 donation, you can get a birthday greeting or other celebratory message from a shelter dog or cat. It's a different way the shelter is trying to raise money, since many of their regular fundraising events have been cancelled due to coronavirus.

You can also visit your local animal shelter’s website to see if you can make a donation online or find animal rescue groups and shelters near you.