To reduce the spread of coronavirus, the government advice to people is to stay at home in order to protect the NHS and save lives. To reduce social contact, the Government has ordered certain businesses and venues to close. People can travel for work purposes, but only where they cannot work from home. With the exception of those businesses and venues required to close, the government has not required any other businesses to close – indeed it is important for business to carry on not least to ensure the economy keeps working and in the case of pet businesses to help safeguard the welfare of the nation’s pets. Pet businesses play a key role in this.
Here is some guidance for animal businesses to operate in a safe manner during the current circumstances:
Boarding establishments will have very low occupancy rates because of cancelled holidays, however there is a requirement to care for the pets of people hospitalised from coronavirus and from key workers, shielded and vulnerable people who may not be able to care for their pets. Under the Care Act 2014 in England and Wales, local authorities have a duty to care for those animals, and boarding establishments may wish to offer space. Boarding establishments may also make arrangements with shelters and rescues if needed.
Animals being collected and taken to the boarding establishment may well be carrying the virus on their coat, or on belongings such as leads. Any material such as collars, leads, toys and food bowls arriving with an animal should be thoroughly washed with soap and water and left to dry in the open air. Handover should take place in a room or space large enough for the client and staff to maintain their social distance. Dogs should be wiped down with a pet safe disposable damp cloth which should be disposed of properly afterwards. A disposable apron or other appropriate protective clothing should be worn whilst doing so. Where appropriate for the dog’s temperament, they may be bathed once arriving at the boarding establishment.
If an animal is taken from a coronavirus infected household they should be held in the establishment’s isolation facility for three days to ensure no virus is retained on the pet. During that period those pets should be dealt with after all others on the premises.
Animal rescue and re-homing organisations may also be under pressure from animals being abandoned and particularly if they have a stray dog contract with the local authority. Boarding establishments may also wish to offer space to them.
Home boarding. Similar to boarding establishments it is likely that most will be unused. Home boarders may be in a position to offer their services to local authorities. Priority should be given to board dogs from a single household of a key worker, or shielded or vulnerable people or a coronavirus infected or isolating household. The handover should be followed with the home boarder collecting the dog, wiping them down with a pet safe disposable damp cloth which should be disposed of properly afterwards before putting them in the vehicle and the owner retaining all equipment such as leads. The home boarder must wash all equipment with soap and water once the dog/s have left. Dogs may be bathed for extra risk prevention in a home boarder’s house if the dogs behaviour is known. An interval of three days should be allowed between boarding dogs from different households to ensure no cross contamination. The owner’s lead should be retained by them. Dogs should be walked on a lead locally, maintaining social distance from other people and pets, and not transported in a vehicle to exercise unless absolutely necessary.
Commercial day care and home day care may continue to operate and priority should be given for key workers, and shielded and vulnerable people who are unable to make alternative safe arrangements for their dog. Collection should be on an appointment basis. The handover should be followed with the operator wiping the dog down with a pet safe disposable damp cloth which should be disposed of properly afterwards before putting them in the vehicle and the owner retaining all equipment such as leads.
If dogs are brought to site, for example by key workers, owners should remain in their vehicles until staff are ready to accept their dog. Handover should take place in a room or space large enough for the client and staff to maintain their social distance. Each dog should be bathed where appropriate for the dog’s temperament or wiped down with a fresh disposable pet safe cloth on arrival and departure which should be disposed of properly afterwards.
If dogs are collected only dogs from a single household should be collected at a time. Each dog should be bathed where appropriate for the dog’s temperament or wiped down with a disposable pet safe cloth on arrival which should be disposed of properly afterwards. The vehicle must be disinfected between journeys.
The entire premises must be cleaned and disinfected at the close of each day.
Dog walkers can continue to operate and priority should be given for key workers, and shielded and vulnerable people who are unable to make alternative safe arrangements for their dog. Dogs from coronavirus infected households may be walked but if doing so they must be walked after dogs from all other households. The handover should be followed with the owner retaining all equipment such as leads. Taking place in a room or space large enough for the client and staff to maintain their social distance. Only dogs from the same household should be walked together and social distancing should be maintained for both the walker and the dogs by keeping the dogs on a lead at all times. Dogs should not be transported away from the house but walked locally unless it is impossible to do so safely. Any equipment, including the vehicle if used to transport the dog, must be cleaned and disinfected between dogs.
Gloves should be worn and disposed of after each household and before returning to a vehicle. There should be minimal contact between the walker and the dog. Walkers should not touch personal items such as phones whilst walking a dog
Groomers and their clients should consider whether the necessary human contact and journeys are essential or in current circumstances may be delayed to protect public health. Grooming services present a challenge as there is a risk that the virus may be carried on the dog’s coat. Pets from households with coronavirus present higher risk given the nature of the service. In many cases, groomers may therefore consider that maintaining contact with clients remotely and offering advice to them about their pet’s coat is the safest outcome for all concerned. Government Regulations make it clear that an owner taking a pet by vehicle to be groomed is unlikely to be essential travel, however there may be welfare grounds on which grooming may be necessary, particularly if the lockdown persists. Mobile groomers may continue to operate providing that they can maintain social distancing. The handover should be followed with the owner retaining all equipment such as leads. The grooming facility must be thoroughly disinfected between pets.
Groomers whose business relies on pets coming to them can continue to work if they collect them and as long as they can disinfect their vehicle between collections and then only pets from one household should be collected at one time. Only one dog may be groomed at a time and the dog should have left the premises, with disinfection of the premises occurring, before the next one is allowed to enter. Social distancing should be maintained at all times.
Dog breeders. There will be many existing litters of puppies and kittens and some will currently be ready to be re-homed. This is acceptable providing the animal is at least eight weeks of age and any viewing of them with their mother and litter mates can be achieved electronically. For the duration of the lockdown in these exceptional circumstances the breeder must ensure that when taking the puppy to a home address that journey times are minimised, preferably less than six hours, and that the handover can be achieved whilst maintaining social distancing. Alternatively, a commercial transporter licensed for dogs may be used. Only puppies from a single litter going to the same household should be taken in each journey so that personal hygiene for the breeder or transporter can be maintained including hand washing after the drop off that can only be achieved once the breeder has returned home.
Handover should take place in a room or space large enough for the breeder/transporter and purchaser to maintain their social distance. Gloves should be worn during the handover, removed before returning to the vehicle and disposed of afterwards. The puppy should be wiped over with a pet safe damp disposable cloth prior to handover and no equipment such as a basket should be given by the breeder to the purchaser. Doors and gates should only be opened and closed by householder. Time in the property should be kept to the absolute minimum.
Paperwork and other checks and documentation should be completed before meeting. Prior to the dropping off of the puppy the purchaser should be given advice on immediate care of them including what food to purchase and allowing them to settle in their new home.
Breeders who are considering mating a bitch should ensure that they have the facility to be able to allow potential purchasers to view the litter remotely. They should also consider how the offspring can be safely delivered complying with the guidance above.
It may not be possible to vaccinate and microchip puppies in the current lockdown. Breeders and purchasers should contact their veterinary practice prior to sale. If, on assessment, the veterinary practice feels vaccination is appropriate, it may be that the risk of a vIf vaccination is undertaken the pet should be microchipped at the same time if not already implanted.
Animal rescue and rehoming establishments may continue to re-home pets by offering to transport them to the home of adopters providing that a suitable vehicle is available that can be disinfected between each journey. Maintain social distancing. Where appropriate, animals should be bathed or wiped down with a pet safe damp disposable cloth which should be properly disposed of afterwards. Animals should not be re-homed to coronavirus infected households or those where someone in the household has symptoms of coronavirus.
On arrival at the rehoming establishment the animal should be bathed or wiped down with a pet safe damp disposable cloth which should be properly disposed of afterwards. The animal should be placed in the isolation facility and dealt with after all other animals on site.
Pet shops have not been required to close and can continue to provide pet food and other essential supplies. A journey solely to purchase a pet is not considered essential and is not allowed. If pet shops sell pets they should only do so when the customer has come to the shop to purchase essential items. Selling those already in stock or coming through the supply chain may continue under that provision providing adequate recommended social distance and health precautions can be maintained at all times. Pet shops can also consider arrangements for home delivery of items.
At point of sale pets should be wiped over with a single-use disposable damp cloth wherever practical and the cloth disposed of properly afterwards. The pet should be placed in a secure container that has been thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.
Consideration must be given by breeders as to how the welfare of existing juvenile stock can be maintained whilst the coronavirus measures are in place.
By Sami Beale