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October 15, 2020

OIE tracks COVID-19 threats to animal welfare

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The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) is examining how misunderstandings surrounding COVID-19 may have compromised animal welfare during the pandemic.

The COVID-19 thematic platform on animal welfare is an initiative of the OIE Collaborating Centre Network for Veterinary Emergencies, or EmVetNet, that tracks how the disease is impacting the welfare of livestock, pets, wildlife, and other animals for the purpose of identifying trends, aiding research, and informing policy.

EmVetNet logo“Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, efforts are ongoing to understand the potential origin of this virus and whether animals can be infected or spread the disease. At this time, there is no sufficient evidence to suggest that any animal, including pets or livestock, play a role in the transmission of COVID-19. However, misunderstanding has resulted in threats to animal welfare,” according to the EmVetNet website.

For instance, measures taken to contain the virus have disrupted many animal-related activities around the world, at places from shelters to zoos to institutes that use laboratory animals. The pandemic will also have a lasting economic impact, which in turn may impact animal ownership and animal care.

The OIE platform draws heavily on the work of Lincoln Memorial University College of Veterinary Medicine along with input from the AVMA, the Federation of Veterinarians of Europe, the International Coalition for Animal Welfare, the Israeli State Veterinary Services, and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in the United Kingdom. Together, these organizations have set up the platform to map the impact of COVID-19 on animal welfare, observe trends, identify lessons, and share solutions and best practices to aid research, assist with policy development, and improve the response to future events, according to the EmVetNet website.

Under the direction of Dr. Gary Vroegindewey, director of the One Health Program at LMU’s veterinary college, summer research students and volunteers—with faculty supervision—collected, analyzed, and provided narratives on a wide range of COVID-19–related issues across multiple animal groups. In all, they catalogued over 1,100 animal welfare-related reports and provided 48 report analyses and narratives for the OIE working group.

“It is not often a student can say they conducted research for the World Organisation for Animal Health in the midst of a global pandemic that could have a lasting impact on their field of study,” said Dr. Stacy Anderson, dean of LMU’s veterinary college, in an Aug. 14 report on television station WVLT.

“The work of Lincoln Memorial University contributes greatly to our understanding of the impacts of animal welfare during emergencies,” said Dr. Paolo Dalla Villa, who chairs the Steering Group of the OIE Collaborating Centre for Animal Welfare in Europe, in the same report. “The results of their contributions and the working group will go beyond the current pandemic and provide a framework to integrate animal welfare into future initiatives.”


Veterinary professionals can submit observations, lessons identified, and issues regarding animal welfare within the framework of the EmVetNet COVID-19 thematic platform.