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 dogs and cats aren’t considered a real risk for transmission to humans, a very small number of dogs and cats have gotten the virus from their infected guardians. Per a recent news report, a 32-year-old veterinarian contracted COVID-19 from a cat who got the infection from their owner, which reminds us to follow precautionary measures to prevent the spread.

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 for abandoning your dog or cat because of fears over COVID-19.

What should I do if I become ill with COVID-19 and have a 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 animal companion. This is mainly because the disease could leave you feeling weak, but it would also help avoid the very slim chance of making your animal companion ill. It’s important to plan ahead by considering who should care for your dog or cat and to confirm this person’s 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 guardians who must look after their animal companions “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?

If you aren’t showing any symptoms of COVID-19, you may take your animal companions out for a walk while adhering to locality lockdown restrictions and basic safety protocols, such as wearing a mask and maintaining social distancing.

If you are 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 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 offers 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 them with food and water until help arrives. You can contact a local animal welfare organisation for help.

Does my 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 them to wear a mask. Best practices include making sure your animal companions 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) 9820122602.