COVID-19 and Companion and Community Animals – Your Questions Answered

Posted on by PETA

Can my dog or cat transmit COVID-19?

According to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), “There is no evidence that companion animals are playing an epidemiological role in the spread of human infections of SARS-CoV-2.”

COVID-19 is being transmitted in India among humans, but while companion dogs and cats aren’t considered a real risk for transmission to humans, a very small number of companion dogs and cats have gotten the virus from their infected guardians, but there are no cases of these animals transferring the virus to humans.

Importantly, the OIE says, “There is no justification in taking measures which may compromise the welfare of companion animals.” In other words, there is no reason or justification whatsoever to abandon your companion dog or cat because of fears over COVID-19.

What should I do if I become ill with COVID-19 and have a companion dog or cat at home?

If you develop symptoms or test positive for COVID-19, you can request that another member of your household or a trusted friend or family member care for your companion animal. This is mainly because the disease could leave you feeling weak, but it would also help avoid the very slim chance of making your companion animal ill. It’s important to plan ahead by considering who that person should be and to confirm their readiness for the task in advance. It’s also important to have a second person lined up as a backup, just in case.

The OIE says for guardians who must look after their companion animals, “[T]hey should maintain good hygiene practices and wear a face mask, if possible. Animals belonging to owners infected with COVID-19 virus should be kept indoors in line with similar lockdown recommendations for humans applicable in the country or area.” However, PETA India advises that you should identify a friend or family member who will assist. This is especially important, because there is always the chance of hospitalisation.

Am I allowed to feed community animals?

Yes! Community animals are dependent on restaurant waste and handouts, and during lockdowns, if they aren’t fed, they will starve and suffer. So please do feed them and give them clean water while complying with safety norms, such as wearing a mask, maintaining distance from others, and adhering to handwashing and sanitisation protocols. Be sure to familiarise yourself with foods that dogs and cats cannot eat.

However, if you have symptoms or have tested positive for COVID-19, you must remain in quarantine until your symptoms subside and you test negative for the virus. If you’re a regular community animal feeder, during this time, please do all that you can to get friends or family members who aren’t infected to step in so that animals who are dependent on you don’t starve or suffer. It’s always best to set up these provisions in advance.

Is taking companion animals out for walks allowed?

Anyone who isn’t showing symptoms of COVID-19 or has recovered from the disease and completed 14 days of mandatory quarantine can take the companion animal out for a walk while adhering to lockdown locality restrictions and basic safety protocols, such as wearing a mask and maintaining social distancing.

If you’re showing symptoms or have tested positive for COVID-19, please see our answer above for “What should I do if I become ill with COVID-19 and have a companion dog or cat at home?”

What should I do for a companion animal whose human family has passed away?

It’s best for families to make provisions in the event of death in advance.

If the family hasn’t made provisions, friends or relatives must step in to adopt an animal if they have the time, patience, resources, and love to do so. If this isn’t possible, friends or relatives should find a reliable person to foster the animal temporarily until a suitable home is found. Finally, if necessary, a local animal welfare organisation that provides a good environment – not just a cage – should be called for help.

If you find an abandoned dog or cat, please keep the animal safe, ideally at your home, and provide him or her with food and water until help arrives. You may contact a local animal welfare organisation for help.

Does my companion dog or cat need to wear a mask?

Never put a face mask on an animal, as that can cause breathing difficulties, and there’s no need for a companion animal to wear a mask. Best practices include making sure that your companion animals are up to date on regular vaccinations. A local animal welfare organisation can help ensure the dogs and cats in your community are sterilised and vaccinated, too. Sterilisations are simple surgeries that PETA India strongly recommends for all dogs and cats, as they prevent births and thus the proliferation of unwanted animals.

What should I do if I see someone being cruel to a dog or cat?

Here are steps to take if you witness cruelty to an animal. For additional help, call PETA India’s emergency number (0) 98201 22602.