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Pandemic Necessitates Emergency Preparedness for Pets

Annie Hornish

As we painfully learned from Hurricane Katrina, pet issues are human issues: many people who should have evacuated did not do so because they refused to leave their pets behind in harm’s way. With COVID-19, we again are reminded to have emergency plans in place.

Elements of an emergency preparedness plan for pets:

  • Identify a family member or friend who will care for pets if you become too ill to care for your pets.

  • If you are sick or vulnerable, have someone check in with you regularly.

  • Have crates, food, and extra supplies on hand for relocation of pets if necessary.

  • Keep all animal vaccines up to date and have copies of those records available in the event boarding becomes necessary.

  • Ensure all medications are documented with dosages and administering directions. Include the prescription with the medications in your pet’s to-go bag.

  • Pets should have proper identification: a collar with ID tag and a microchip with current, up-to date contact information.

  • Leave a note on your kitchen fridge or in some other conspicuous location with detailed instructions on what first responders or family/friends should do if you fall ill. Include any and all contact information needed to make your plan easily actionable.

  • Pet trusts or financial arrangements with reputable rescue groups can be made to ensure lifelong care of your pets should you pass prior to your pets.

If you do not have a personal support system or the financial means to meet the above recommendations, please reach out to local shelters and animal service agencies to find out what support is available. There may be options of temporary housing for pets, donated supplies, subsidized veterinary services, and more available to help people care for and stay with their pets.

Can my pet get/spread COVID-19 to people?

Editor’s Note: Stay up to date with recommendations from the Center for Disease Control regarding COVID-19 and animals, as research and knowledge on the virus is still developing.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the veterinary community have concluded that there is no evidence that a person could contract COVID-19 by touching a pet. Although surface transmission is theoretically possible, pet fur does not seem to be able to sustain the virus for very long.

To date, instances of companion animals being infected with COVID-19 have been extremely rare and have only been reported outside of the United States. Examples include a 17-year-old Pomeranian of a COVID-19 patient, and a German shepherd in a separate household, both in Hong Kong. More recently, in Belgium, a cat has also tested positive. The two dogs exhibited no symptoms, and the cat exhibited some symptoms. Experts suspect these are cases of human-to-animal transmission, but reiterate that there is still no evidence at all that dogs or cats can pass the virus to people. In early April, the Bronx Zoo confirmed that several of its big cats became ill and one of its tigers tested positive for the virus, likely after being exposed to a zoo employee who was shedding the virus. Good hygiene (handwashing, disinfecting surfaces) and social distancing are simple, practical measures we can take to reduce the risks of spreading COVID-19.


The time to make an emergency preparedness plan is before you need it!


Annie Hornish is the Connecticut Senior State Director for The Humane Society of the United States and a Supporting Member of CT Chapter Sierra Club.

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No evidence currently exists that pets can spread COVID-19, per the Centers for Disease Control, the American Veterinary Medical Association, the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association, the World Organisation for Animal Health, and the World Small Animal Veterinary Association. 

Photo credit: Annie Hornish.

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