Animal services and temporary sheltering

Updated on May 26, 2020

Shelter veterinarians, and the animal control agencies and humane organizations within which they work, play a key role in promoting public health and the welfare and humane treatment of animals. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the goal continues to be keeping companion animals together with their owners. However, there will be circumstances where shelters receive companion animals from a home with a person known or suspected to have COVID-19. In these cases, animal handling should address human health, animal health, and animal welfare needs.

To facilitate preparedness and establish practices that can help people and companion animals stay safe and healthy, the Interim Recommendations for Intake of Companion Animals from Households where Humans with COVID-19 are Present were developed collaboratively by the American Veterinary Medical Association, the University of Wisconsin-Madison Shelter Medicine Program, the Association of Shelter Veterinarians, the University of California-Davis Koret Shelter Medicine Program, the University of Florida Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) COVID-19 One Health Team.

In addition, during this time of declared COVID-19 national and state public health emergencies, some temporary changes to the way animal care and control facilities provide services have been required to address the needs of human health, support conservation of scarce PPE, promote good animal welfare, and maintain adequate capacity for essential shelter services. As communities around the United States work toward “re-opening”, the National Animal Care and Control Association (NACA) has provided updated guidelines for operations in animal control and sheltering facilities that support a slowed, but steady, approach for resumption of services.

Also, the AVMA urges local policymakers to temporarily exercise discretion with respect to recommendations against sales or adoptions of intact dogs and cats by humane organizations and animal control agencies (e.g., those shared within the AVMA policy on dog and cat population control) during declared state and national COVID-19 public health emergencies. Such discretion is needed to address the needs of human health, support conservation of scarce PPE, promote good animal welfare, and maintain adequate capacity for essential shelter services. Potential negative impacts on efforts to effectively manage companion animal overpopulation are recognized but deemed to be manageable at this time.

Interim Recommendations for Intake of Companion Animals from Households where Humans with COVID-19 are Present

Whenever possible, efforts should be made to keep companion animals and their owners together. If temporary sheltering becomes necessary for animals coming from the home of a person with COVID-19, these guidelines can help animal shelters keep staff and other animals safe.

Read the full recommendations

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