Recommendations for Disaster Sheltering of Household Pets, Service Animals, and Support Animals during the COVID-19 Pandemic
This information is provided through the One Health Federal Interagency COVID-19 Coordination Group, Companion Animals1 subgroup, with contributions from federal partners. This document was reviewed by multiple stakeholders representing veterinary medicine, state partners,2 academic institutions, and non-governmental organizations.3
What You Need to Know
- Early planning and resource identification are critical to successful disaster animal sheltering.
- Sheltering planning for people should include considerations for animals.
- Veterinary support in shelter settings requires early discussions among emergency managers, response partners, veterinarians, public health officials, state animal health officials (SAHOs), veterinary medical associations, and veterinary medical colleges.
- Social distancing and other precautionary practices among people, such as wearing masks and proper hand hygiene, have the largest impact on preventing the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
- Almost all existing companion animal sheltering and veterinary medical response best practices will remain valid during this pandemic, and links to this information are provided in this document.
- This document relies heavily on existing federal COVID-19 guidance. Please see References for more guidance.
- This information is provided to assist emergency planners who may need to consider local conditions, statutory authorities, resources, agreements, and other critical factors to form the final plan for disaster sheltering of household pets, service animals, and support animals during the pandemic.
- Emergency managers will face many challenges pertaining to both the pandemic and a disaster that requires evacuation and sheltering. There are no perfect solutions, and all strategies could contain an element of risk for SARS-CoV-2 transmission in people.
- Disaster animal sheltering is addressed first at the local level, with support from community non-governmental partners and other resource providers.
- Animal diseases and zoonotic diseases4 are significant concerns in animal disaster sheltering operations. Infection control in animal disaster sheltering operations is a frequent concern not exclusively related to SARS-CoV-2 virus.
- The greatest risk for transmission of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 (the disease), during the pandemic is person-to-person spread. Occasional transmission from people to animals has been documented. Transmission from animals to people has not been clearly demonstrated but may be possible. People and at least some companion animal species may be able to spread SARS-CoV-2 without showing symptoms of COVID-19, creating a baseline risk for all emergency response and support personnel as well as disaster/emergency survivors.
- Pet owners should create or update their emergency plans, including for pets, to account for the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Providing safe sheltering options for household pets, service animals, and support animals and their owners protects the safety of the public by encouraging individuals and families to evacuate in a timely manner.
- CDC and other federal agencies will update guidance as new information becomes available. Emergency planners should monitor CDC’s COVID-19 website and seek additional guidance from local health departments and state animal health officials such as the state veterinarian.
- To reduce the potential for person-to-person transmission of SARS-CoV-2, communities and organizations should plan to use the minimal necessary staffing to support animal sheltering. Rotating teams or reserve staffing should be identified to provide relief or to step in if individuals or teams need to go into quarantine or self-isolation due to exposure to SARS-CoV-2.
- How communities deliver human sheltering services will impact the methods of emergency sheltering for animals. Generally, animal sheltering formats include the following:
- Individual cohabitated housing: People are housed in hotel rooms or similar private accommodationspdf icon with their pets or service or support animals.
- Congregate cohabitated housing: People and pets or service or support animals are housed together within a larger shared space with other families.
- Co-located congregate sheltering: People are housed in a large shared space, and pets and other animals are housed nearby, allowing owners to provide almost all care for their animals.
- Animal-only emergency shelters: Pets and other animals are housed at a location that does not allow owners to provide routine care for their pets.
Assistance animals5 include service6 and support animals7: In accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, service animals must be permitted to remain with their handlers. The Fair Housing Act also mandates that all assistance animals remain with their owners in housing, including emergency sheltering.
- Pet shelter-in-place strategies may be used in some incidents according to local jurisdictional plans. In some cases, pets could remain sheltered in their homes with appropriate care visits at least once daily.
- Set up registration and triage for people and/or pets, service animals, and support animals in a location that allows people and their animals to stay at least six feet away from others and that protects them from the elements.
- Instruct staff, volunteers, and survivors of the disaster on requirements for everyone8 (i.e., staff, volunteers, and survivors) to wear masks, follow recommended hand hygiene practices, practice social distancing, and follow other jurisdictional guidelines while in any type of animal sheltering facility.
- Do not put masks on pets. Covering a pet’s face could harm them.
- Encourage staff, volunteers, and pet owners to practice healthy habits around pets and other animals. Follow CDC recommended precautions for people at increased risk of severe COVID-19 illness and zoonotic diseases.
- Jurisdictions may need a plan for managing people unwilling to comply with healthy practices. This might include assigning security personnel to sheltering sites.
- Clearly communicate areas and procedures for walking/exercising dogs, collecting and disposing of animal waste, and other key owner/animal activities.
- Advise owners to immediately report any signs of illness in their animals to shelter staff or volunteers.
- Make hand hygiene stations readily available. Instruct owners to always wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or to use a hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol before entering and after leaving an animal area.
- Hand hygiene stations should have adequate supplies of soap and water, or hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol, paper towels, tissues, and no-touch trash cans.
- Owners should only handle their own animals. When possible, families in co-located shelters should designate one person to enter the animal area to care for the animal(s) or to check out/return the animal(s).
- In some cases of animal-only sheltering, owners might not be allowed to visit pets, and jurisdictions should consider the use of telecommunications to allow virtual audiovisual visits.
- Every congregate cohabitated companion animal shelter should have veterinary medical support to provide examinations and address animal health issues at the shelter.
- Staff should use handouts, signs, and verbal encouragement to help communicate the need for healthy behaviors around animals and social distancing of at least 6 feet between people, between people and pets, and between pets from other households.
- Discourage owners, staff, and volunteers from eating and drinking in animal housing areas.
- Discourage owners from letting other people handle items that go into their animal’s mouth, such as toys and treats.
- Discourage sharing of items between animals from different households (for example, leashes, toys, or blankets). If items like leashes must be shared, they should be cleaned and disinfected after each use or between each animal.
The following applies to all congregate cohabitated companion animal emergency shelters. Owned animals entering private sheltering (such as hotel rooms) may not need a veterinary examination.
The flow chart below illustrates the initial intake and levels of precautions needed for housing animals with various combinations of history and clinical signs.
*If an animal has an examination that is suggestive of a contagious disease, including SARS-CoV-2, that animal should be examined by a veterinarian.
- An epidemiologic link to a human COVID-19 case or a SARS-CoV-2 animal case is defined as:
- Being within approximately 6 feet (2 meters) of either a person with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 or another animal infected with SARS-CoV-2
- Having direct contact with secretions from a person with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 (e.g., saliva, respiratory droplets) or an animal with SARS-CoV-2 infection
- All animals should receive a screening examination from a veterinarian, veterinary technician, or experienced animal care and handling specialistexternal icon. If the screening examination finds signs that could be consistent with SARS-CoV-2 infection or another infectious disease or significant health problem, the animal should be examined by a veterinarian if a veterinarian did not perform the initial screening examination.
- The following signs are potentially consistent with, but not specific to, SARS-CoV-2 infection in any companion animals and could represent a wide array of infectious and non-infectious diseases:
- Fever, lethargy
- Coughing, difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Sneezing, nasal or ocular discharge
- Vomiting, diarrhea
- Animal intake staff should ask the following:
- Has the animal been exposed to a person with suspected or confirmed COVID-19? Exposure includes close contact with a known or possibly infected family member or other person (being within 6 feet of the person, direct contact, sleeping in the same bed, sharing food, kissing, snuggling, or being exposed to sneezes or saliva).
- Has the owner noticed any signs of illness in their pet, particularly coughing, breathing difficulty, sneezing, runny eyes or nose, fever, loss of appetite, lethargy, vomiting or diarrhea?
- Animals should be assigned to one of the following housing areas:9
- General housing: Area for animals that do not appear sick and do not have a known history of exposure to people with COVID-19 (confirmed or suspected). General precautions are appropriate for this area.
- Separated housing: Area for animals with a known history of exposure to people with COVID-19 (confirmed or suspected) but that are showing no signs of illness. Intermediate precautions (defined in the graphic above) are appropriate in this zone.
- Isolation: Area(s) for animals that may have a disease potentially transmittable to people or other animals.
- House animals from different households with increased space (6 feet or greater) between cages, crates, or kennels when possible. When out of the enclosure, keep dogs on a leash and maintain 6 feet in distance from other animals and people other than the owner/family members.
- House cats in the largest cages available. Increased cage size has been shown to help reduce the incidence of respiratory virus outbreaks.10
- Co-located and animal-only companion animal shelters may have five or more areas for animal housing:
- General population area for dogs
- General population area for cats and other small pets11
- Separation area for dogs (if needed)
- Separation area for cats and other small pets (if needed)
- Isolation area(s) as necessary
- Information on general best practices for veterinary medical care, precautions, personal protective equipment (PPE), and disinfection can be found in the best practice document on the National Mass Care Strategy Site.external icon
- Veterinary professionals provide a critical role in emergency companion animal sheltering in providing care for animals, as well as the crucial task of supporting infection control, biosafety measures, and zoonotic disease prevention at the facility. Veterinarians should work closely with state animal health and local/state public health officials in planning operational practices of infection control and biosecurity. Community veterinary professionals should be integrated into the planning process for emergency animal sheltering as soon as possible.
- National personal protective equipment (PPE) prioritization may impact the choice of PPE used by veterinary personnel. Veterinary professionals supporting emergency animal sheltering should discuss protective measures recommended in this document with local public health officials and determine specific jurisdictional policies on PPE, PPE availability, and infection mitigating practices.
- During all disasters and especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is critical to maintain continuity of veterinary care through effective records and communication among veterinary staff supporting the emergency animal shelter(s).
- Use telemedicine, or virtual veterinary visits, as an adjunct to direct examination.
- While veterinarians may not be able to be at the shelter continuously, having access for video calls through which information and visuals can be shared could effectively expand veterinary support. Telemedicine can also reduce the need for additional people to be onsite, potentially reducing the risk of SARS-CoV-2 transmission at the location.
- Local planners should request input from their state veterinary medical association on the use of telemedicine in supporting disaster animal sheltering.
- Follow best practice documents including CDC guidance on zoonoses prevention in emergency animal sheltering. No specific changes in preventive care should be made for the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The following are suggested standards for daily observation and examination:
- Ensure that there is a system for staff and volunteers to record abnormalities in all animals related to eating, drinking, urination, defecation, alertness, or other observations they make while caring for the animals each day.
- A veterinary technician/assistant or experienced animal care and handling specialist should observe every animal every day and report any abnormalities to the attending veterinarian(s).
- Abnormal findings should result in a veterinary examination or telemedicine consultation.
- Veterinarians may also be able to provide examinations, treatments, and isolation areas at offsite animal hospitals, reducing the number of people coming into shelters. Animal shelters may have isolation facilities and may be able to provide veterinary support as well.
- CDC provides guidance on testing animals for SARS-CoV-2 and a USDA provides a U.S. case definition.pdf iconexternal icon
- Animals that test positive for SARS-CoV-2 should be reported to state public health (e.g., the state public health veterinarian) and state animal health officials (e.g., the state veterinarian).
- Animals that test positive for SARS-CoV-2 should be managed according to local and state, tribal or territorial guidance in conjunction with CDC’s Toolkit: One Health Approach to Address Companion Animals with SARS-CoV-2.
- Animal sheltering planners and veterinarians should consult with local or state public health officials on jurisdictional-specific PPE recommendations and consider the following for people in contact with:
- For animals with no signs of contagious illness, use cleaning and disinfection practices as described in CDC guidance for pet stores.
- Cleaners and disinfectants should be stored out of reach of pets and children.
- For animals with signs of contagious illness, follow CDC guidance for veterinary clinics:
- Use gloves when handling the pet’s dishes, toys, or bedding and when cleaning up urine, feces, or vomit. Throw out gloves and place waste material or litterbox waste in a sealed bag before throwing it away in a trashcan lined with a trash bag. Always wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds immediately after cleaning up after pets.
- For cleaning up body fluids (e.g., urine, feces, blood, saliva, vomit) from high-risk animals (defined in the flow chart above):
- Wear appropriate PPE.
- Contain the urine, feces, blood, saliva, or vomit with absorbent material (e.g., paper towels, sawdust, or cat litter) and pick up the absorbent material and bodily fluids and seal in a leak-proof plastic bag.
- Clean and disinfect the area with an EPA-registered disinfectantexternal icon according to the disinfectant label instructions.
- Visibly soiled surfaces should be cleaned before disinfecting.
- After disinfection, safely remove and dispose of PPE according to locally accepted procedures and wash hands.
- Keep other people and animals away from the area until disinfection is completed.
- If a high-risk animal becomes sick or dies while in the shelter, seek additional guidance (with consultation from the owner) from supporting veterinary personnel, local health departments and state animal health officials to determine cause of death and manage the remains.
- For sick animals, including those that test positive for SARS-CoV-2, limit the number of people who have contact with the animal and maintain a log of all personnel who have had contact with the animal for occupational health monitoring.
- For staff/responders who test positive for SARS-CoV-2, consider maintaining a log of the animals that the staff/responder worked with and monitor these animals for clinical signs of illness. Inform the owner if someone who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, was in contact with their animal.
- For monitoring of responders and volunteers, follow current CDC guidance for businesses and employers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Animal sheltering team or veterinary healthcare team members, staff, or volunteers who have symptoms of fever or acute respiratory illness should stay at home and consult with their healthcare provider. Communicate expectations and procedures developed from the CDC Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers Responding to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).
3. Reviewing organizations included the American Veterinary Medical Associationexternal icon, the Extension Disaster Education Networkexternal icon, National Alliance of State Animal and Agricultural Emergency Programsexternal icon/State Animal Health Officials, and the National Animal Rescue and Sheltering Coalition along with several individual subject matter experts.
8. Acknowledging that some small children may not be able to wear or maintain masks
9. The terms general housing, separation and isolation are defined for purposes of this document only and do not necessarily apply to other regulatory or guidance documents.
Fairs and agricultural shows pose unique One Health risks because they bring together crowds of people and animals with opportunities for close contact among them and mixing of different animals from different places. Events like these can contribute to the spread of SARS-CoV-2 from person to person but may also pose a risk of infection to certain types of animals.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, show organizers should follow CDC’s Considerations for Events and Gatherings when deciding whether to hold, postpone, or cancel a fair, agricultural show, or other event where animals may be exhibited. Planners should also act in accordance with state and local jurisdictional guidance with regards to continuing operations at fair grounds or agricultural shows.
For general disease prevention when interacting with animals, follow advice in the Compendium of Measures to Prevent Disease Associated with Animals in Public Settingspdf iconexternal icon, which provides standard recommendations on reducing the risk of disease related to animal contact in public settings for public health officials, veterinarians, animal venue operators, animal exhibitors (e.g., 4-H programs), visitors to animal venues and exhibits, teachers, camp operators, and others. Additional information and a checklist on biosecurity measures to prevent zoonotic diseases from spreading at fairs and animal exhibitions may be found in the NASPHV’s Resources on Zoonotic Influenzaexternal icon.
Fair and agricultural show organizers should consider the potential for COVID-19 to spread from person to person, person to animal, and possibly from animal to animal. The risk of animal-to-person spread is considered low. However, it appears that people can spread the virus to animals in some situations, usually during close contact. Event organizers should take precautions to minimize transmission of all zoonotic diseases between people and animals.
Some animals have been reported to be infected with SARS-CoV-2 worldwide, including pet cats and dogs in the United States. To date, there have been no reports of horses, cows, pigs, chickens, or ducks testing positive for SARS-COV-2. More studies are needed to understand if and how different animals could be affected by COVID-19.
Precautions for animals
Although there have been no reports of livestock being infected with SARS-CoV-2, other types of animals have been infected. We are still learning about this virus and how it might affect different animals. Take precautions to prevent the potential spread of the virus among animals at your event.
- Prohibit from the show any species shown to be susceptible to SARS-CoV-2, including cats and other felids, dogs, small mammals, mink and other mustelids like ferrets, and other animalsexternal icon shown to be susceptible to this virus.
- Follow good biosecurityexternal icon practices to prevent the spread of pathogens between the fair and the farm. These include management practices on the farm, in transit, and at the destination. Biosecurity applies to both people and animals and includes these practices:
- Use good hand hygiene.
- Keep visitors on the farm to a minimum.
- Clean and disinfect all equipment, tools, and other items between uses.
- Wear proper attire and PPE when coming in to contact with animals or where they live.
- Monitor animals for signs of illness.
- Do not allow admission of any animals that are sick. Animals infected with SARS-CoV-2 may have a range of clinical signs including fever, coughing, difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, lethargy, sneezing, runny nose, eye discharge, vomiting, or diarrhea.
- All animals should receive a screening examination from a veterinarian, veterinary technician, or experienced animal care and handling specialist before being allowed on the premises.
- Agricultural fairs may require a health certificate from a licensed veterinarian for each animal brought to fair grounds.
- Animals should be examined daily for signs of illness.
- Exhibitors should report sick animals to the fair veterinarian or designee immediately.
- Prevent contact between pens of animals from different farms or households to prevent unnecessary interactions. Prevention may be accomplished by spacing out pens, staggering animals with an empty pen in between, or making other arrangements based on the facility.
- Place pens and stalls in a manner that keeps the public at least 6 feet away from the animal.
- Clean and disinfect animal areas frequently, including between uses for different animal species.
- Use facilities that provide adequate ventilation for animals and people.
- Limit interactions and maintain a distance of at least 6 feet between animals and people and between people, including fair staff, judges, and the public who are not from the same farm or household as the animal or its caretaker.
- Do not put cloth face coverings on animals. Covering an animal’s face can harm it.
- Do not wipe or bathe animals with chemical disinfectants, alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, or any other products not approved for animal use.
Maintaining healthy environments in animal interaction areas
If the event will have a petting zoo or other animal interaction area, take precautions in addition to normal infectious disease prevention methods to protect animals and people from infection with SARS-CoV-2.
- Do not permit animals that are at higher risk for infection with SARS-CoV-2 in petting zoos or other animal interaction areas. This includes cats and other felids, small mammals like ferrets and rabbits, and dogs.
- Include hand hygiene stations at the entrance and exit to petting zoos and other exhibits where people will be interacting with animals. Visitors should wash their hands before and after entering the area, even if they didn’t touch animals.
- Washing hands with soap and water is the best way to get rid of germs in most situations. If soap and water are not readily available, provide hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
- If possible, staff should be assigned at the exit to actively encourage hand washing.
- Visitors to animal areas should wear a cloth face covering inside the animal area, if able. Cloth face coverings are not recommended for children under 2 years or anyone who has trouble breathing or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the covering without assistance.
- Do not use common feed dispensers and other shared surfaces that cannot be cleaned and disinfected between uses.
- Increase distance and limit the duration of contact (no more than 15 minutes) between visitors and between visitors and workers:
- People should maintain at least 6 feet of distance between each other. Provide physical guides, such as tape on floors or sidewalks and signs on walls, to ensure that individuals remain at least 6 feet apart in lines and at other times (e.g., guides for creating one-way routes).
- Eliminate lines or queues if possible or encourage people to stay at least 6 feet apart by providing signs or other visual cues such as tape or chalk marks
- When designing petting zoo and other animal interaction areas, allow for social distancing and avoid high densities of people.
- Provide separate entry and exit points for visitors so they do not need to pass close together while coming into and going out of the petting zoo.
- Limit items allowed in the animal area. Do not allow strollers, food, backpacks, or other items in the animal area.
- Do not allow visitors to share their food with animals.
- Discourage visitors from kissing or snuggling with animals or sitting on the ground in animal areas.
- Use EPA-approved disinfectants against COVID-19 to clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces such as door handles/gates and shared objects in petting zoos and animal interaction areas.
Livestock and horse shows
To maintain social distancing, consider the following steps:
- Split classes to limit the number of animals in the show ring.
- Cattle, horse, sheep, and goat shows naturally lend to social distancing when on the walk; adapt spacing to maintain distance between participants.
- Adapt hog shows by penning and only letting one hog/exhibitor at a time into the ring.
- Stagger activities in washing and grooming areas, or other shared spaces, so that animals from different farms or households do not interact unnecessarily and so that people can maintain a distance of at least 6 feet apart from each other.
- Stagger animal move-in/move-out times to reduce contact between people and animals.
- Consider a “show-and-go” with animals stalled at a trailer and leaving immediately after the show if this will not compromise animal welfare, for example, because of weather conditions such as high temperature and humidity.
For more information on equestrian facilities, see “How can I run my equestrian facility safely” in the Frequently Asked Questions on COVID-19 and Animals.
Maintaining healthy operations
- Require or encourage pre-registration to reduce in-person interaction on site.
- Advise all staff and anyone visiting the event, including exhibitors, visitors, judges, and veterinarians, to stay home if they are sick.
- Conduct daily health checks (e.g., temperature screening and/or symptom checking) of staff. If feasible, also check health status of attendees, in accordance with any applicable privacy laws and regulations.
- Increase distance and limit the duration of contact (no more than 15 minutes) between exhibitors, visitors, judges, veterinarians, staff, and anyone else visiting the event.
- When designing exhibits and layout of the grounds, allow for social distancing and avoid high densities of people, including in employee-only areas such as break rooms, locker rooms, and time clocks.
- Examples of areas where congregation should be limited include in- and out-gates, warm-up rings, prep or grooming areas, petting zoos and other animal interaction areas, restrooms, and food service areas.
- Limit the number of people entering the facility.
- Stagger visiting times and decrease high-traffic areas by limiting areas open to visitors/exhibitors or staggering use of common areas such as bathrooms, concession areas, bleachers, or animal viewing areas.
- Use a perimeter fence to control the number of people entering or exiting.
- Use cloth face coverings for visitors, exhibitors, judges, veterinarians, and staff, especially where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.
- Cloth face coverings are not a substitute for personal protective equipment (PPE), which should be worn when performing procedures on animals or when using cleaning and disinfecting chemicals.
- Cloth face coverings are not recommended for children under 2 years or anyone who has trouble breathing or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the covering without assistance.
- Move entertainment scheduled for indoors (or in tented space) outside in an open-air setting, weather permitting.
- Use markings and signs to remind staff, exhibitors, and visitors to practice social distancing, wear cloth face coverings in public spaces, especially when maintaining at least 6 feet apart may be difficult, wash their hands, and follow other safety measures. Consider adding signs that illustrate the capacity limit of buildings, including bathrooms, and take steps to control the number of people entering and exiting facilities.
- Encourage hand hygiene by setting up hand hygiene stations at the entrance and within the premises so that staff and visitors can clean their hands, including before and after interacting with animals or entering/exiting animal areas
- Washing hands with soap and water is the best way to get rid of germs in most situations. If soap and water are not readily available, provide hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces such as door handles/gates (including those to stall doors and bathrooms), and shared objects such as hoses, buckets, brooms, and pitchforks daily or more frequently based on the level of use.
- Use EPA-approved disinfectantsexternal icon against COVID-19.
- Encourage participants to clean and disinfect items from home (halters, pitchforks, etc.) before bringing them to the event and again before they take them back home.
- When possible, discourage the sharing of items (halters, brushes, clippers, etc.) that are difficult to disinfect between competitors, barns on the premises, and farms.
- Clean and disinfect animal areas between shows or events.
- Develop a schedule for increased, routine cleaning and disinfection of animal areas and other shared areas like bathrooms.
- Ensure safe and correct use and storage of cleaners and disinfectants to avoid harm to employees and other individuals. Always read and follow label instructions for each product, and store products securely away from children.
- Cleaning products should not be used near children. Staff should ensure that there is adequate ventilation when using these products to prevent attendees or themselves from inhaling toxic vapors.
- Implement strategies to maintain safe concession areas and promote behaviors that reduce the spread:
- Encourage frequent hand washing, by setting up hand hygiene stations near food concession areas.
- Eliminate communal high-touch items (e.g., condiments, reach-in coolers, straw dispensers, some types of trash containers, etc.).
- Take social distancing into consideration when designing these areas so that people can maintain 6 feet of distance between each other while waiting in lines or seating.
- Refer to CDC’s considerations for restaurants and bars for more information on safety precautions to reduce the spread of COVID-19
- Mount pedestal fans or hard mounted fans with water misters high up so that they blow towards the ground, avoiding blowing between different people. Water misters that spray directly onto people should use only potable water. Develop a Water Management Plan (WMP) and monitor the disinfectant and temperature of the water to ensure that water is not sitting in the line for an extended period of time.
- Avoid blowing air directly over one person towards another.
- Avoid creating air movement that distributes dust, which may contain contaminants.
- Position fans above the seating area (e.g., restaurant seating), cordon off the area directly in front of a ground-level fan to prevent people from standing directly in front of the airflow discharge, and set fans into oscillation mode so that there is no consistent airflow from one person to another.
- Prevent fans from blowing directly from people to people, people to animals, or animals to people.
- Isolate and transport people who become sick.
1 Reusable (i.e., washable) gowns are typically made of polyester or polyester-cotton fabrics. Gowns of these fabrics can be safely laundered according to routine procedures and reused.
2Respiratory protection that is at least as protective as a fit-tested NIOSH-certified disposable N95 filtering facepiece respirator is best practice. However, if an N95 or other respirator is not available, use a combination of a surgical mask and a full-face shield.
3Aerosol-generating procedures, such as suction or bronchoscopy, should be avoided, if possible, on any animals that are test-positive for SARS-CoV-2.
Companion animals that do not require hospitalization can be returned to their caretakers to undergo home isolation. See What to Do if Your Pet Tests Positive for the Virus that Causes COVID-19, which has recommendations for owners of test-positive animals; the state public health veterinarian and state animal health official may recommend that owners adhere to this guidance.
A protocol for home isolation applies to all animals that are test-positive and do not require hospitalization. This protocol involves daily monitoring, isolation recommendations, and movement restrictions.
Companion animals that are confirmed to be positive for SARS-CoV-2 and can be isolated at home should be monitored daily by the owner/household members for signs of illness.
If a SARS-CoV-2 test-positive companion animal develops new or worsening symptoms, the owner should inform the treating veterinarian and arrange for the animal to be transported to their veterinary facility or to another previously identified veterinary facility that can provide appropriate care. The treating veterinarian should also inform the state public health veterinarian and state animal health official of the animal’s status, whereabouts, and treatment/care plan.
For the duration of isolation, have the companion animal stay in a designated “sick room” if possible, or otherwise be separated from people and other animals. This is the same way a COVID-19 positive person would separate from others in their household.
Although there is no evidence that companion animals can transmit SARS-CoV-2 to humans, these precautions are recommended out of an abundance of caution until more is known about virus transmission. CDC provides recommendations on how to limit interaction with the isolated companion animal as much as possible.
Regardless of whether the household member has been sick with suspected or confirmed COVID-19, household members that are providing care for an isolated companion animal should protect themselves and follow CDC’s cleaning and disinfecting recommendations.
Based on currently available information and clinical expertise, older adults and people of any age with serious underlying conditions might be at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19. Information on COVID-19 and pregnancy is very limited. Where possible, people at higher risk for severe illness should avoid caring for animals that are test-positive for SARS-CoV-2.
Below are activities that should be avoided until the companion animal is cleared to return to normal activities:
- Walks outside (except when unavoidable for elimination);
- Visits to veterinary facilities, without prior consultation with the treating veterinarian;
- Visits to human healthcare facilities, long-term care facilities, schools, or daycares;
- Visits to parks (including dog parks), markets, or other gatherings such as festivals;
- Visits to the groomer, including mobile grooming salons;
- Visits to pet daycares or boarding facilities;
- Serving as a therapy animal; and
- Other outings such as playdates, hikes, or visiting other homes or stores.
Where deemed appropriate, repeat testing of companion animals for SARS-CoV-2 should be conducted in coordination with a the state public health veterinarian and state animal health official. Federal partners, including CDC and USDAexternal icon, should be consulted as relevant.
Despite concerns about human-to-wildlife transmission of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, routine testing for the virus in free-living or captive North American wildlife species is not currently recommended. However, there may be situations in which testing should be considered. This information may be useful for improving understanding of the epidemiology of the virus in wildlife populations and in applying necessary management actions. These recommendations do not apply to non-domestic species in human care (e.g., zoological facilities) except when free-living wildlife are temporarily in human care for research or rehabilitation.
Before testing sick or dead wildlife for SARS-CoV-2, more common causes of morbidity and mortality should be ruled out, unless there is cause for suspicion of previous exposure to SARS-CoV-2.
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses. Some coronaviruses cause cold-like illnesses in people, while others cause illness in certain types of animals, such as cattle, camels, and bats. Some coronaviruses, such as canine and feline coronaviruses, infect only animals and do not infect humans.
Risk of people spreading the virus that causes COVID-19 to pets
We are still learning about the virus that causes COVID-19, but it appears that it can spread from people to animals in some situations.
CDC is aware of a small number of pets, including dogs and cats, reportedexternal icon to be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, mostly after close contact with people with COVID-19. Only a few of the pets reported to be positive showed signs of illness.
What to do if you own pets
Until we learn more about how this virus affects animals, treat pets as you would other human family members to protect them from a possible infection.
- Do not let pets interact with people or other animals outside the household.
- Keep cats indoors when possible to prevent them from interacting with other animals or people.
- Walk dogs on a leash, maintaining at least 6 feet (2 meters) from other people and animals.
- Avoid dog parks or public places where a large number of people and dogs gather.
There is a small number of animals around the world reported to be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, mostly after having contact with a person with COVID-19. Talk to your veterinarian if your pet gets sick or if you have any concerns about your pet’s health.
Protect pets if you are sick
If you are sick with COVID-19 (either suspected or confirmed by a test), you should restrict contact with your pets and other animals, just like you would with people. Until we know more about this virus, people sick with COVID-19 should avoid contact with pets and other animals.
- When possible, have another member of your household care for your pets while you are sick.
- Avoid contact with your pet including, petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, and sharing food or bedding.
- If you must care for your pet or be around animals while you are sick, wear a cloth face covering and wash your hands before and after you interact with them.
If you are sick with COVID-19 and your pet becomes sick, do not take your pet to the veterinary clinic yourself. Call your veterinarian and let them know you have been sick with COVID-19. Some veterinarians may offer telemedicine consultations or other plans for seeing sick pets. Your veterinarian can evaluate your pet and determine the next steps for your pet’s treatment and care.
For more information visit: What to Do if You are Sick.
Stay healthy around animals
In the United States, there is no evidence that animals are playing a significant role in the spread of COVID-19. Based on the limited information available to date, the risk of animals spreading COVID-19 to people is considered to be low. However, because all animals can carry germs that can make people sick, it’s always a good idea to practice healthy habits around pets and other animals.
- Wash your hands after handling animals, their food, waste, or supplies.
- Practice good pet hygiene and clean up after pets properly.
- Talk to your veterinarian if you have questions about your pet’s health.
- Be aware that children 5 years of age and younger, people with weakened immune systems, and people 65 years of age and older are more likely to get sick from germs some animals can carry.
Guidance and Recommendations
Interim Infection Prevention and Control Guidance for Veterinary Clinics During the COVID-19 Response
CDC guidance for COVID-19 may be adapted by state and local health departments to respond to rapidly changing local circumstances.
- This interim guidance is for veterinarians and their staff who may be treating or advising on companion animal medical care during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Veterinary facilities have unique characteristics that warrant additional infection control considerations.
- At this time, there is no evidence that animals play a significant role in spreading SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Based on the limited data available, the risk of animals spreading COVID-19 to people is considered to be low. We are still learning about this virus, and it appears that in some rare situations, people can spread the virus to animals. Further studies are needed to understand if and how different animals could be affected by the virus, and the role animals may play in the spread of COVID-19.
- Postpone elective procedures, surgeries, and non-urgent veterinary visits. Make a plan to support sick and injured pets through telemedicine and/or curbside services.
- Proactively communicate to both staff and pet owners the need for them to stay at home if sick.
- Develop a plan for what to do if a pet owner with respiratory symptoms comes into your clinic, or if a pet with a history of exposure to a person with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 becomes sick.
Who this guidance is for: Veterinarians and veterinary staff providing care to companion animals
Purpose: The intent of this guidance is to facilitate preparedness and to ensure practices are in place in a veterinary clinical setting to help people and animals stay safe and healthy.
This interim guidance is based on what is currently known about the transmission and severity of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). This is a rapidly evolving situation. CDC will update this guidance as needed, and as additional information becomes available. States may have their own specific requirements for these circumstances. Please check the CDC COVID-19 website periodically for updated information as well as interim guidance.
Note: The scientific name of this novel coronavirus is severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). In people, the disease caused by the virus is called Coronavirus Disease 2019, or COVID-19. In the context of animal health, we refer to the disease as SARS-CoV-2.
SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 in humans, is thought to be spread primarily through respiratory droplets from coughing, sneezing, or talking. Airborne transmission over long distances is unlikely. The virus has been shown to survive in aerosols for hours, on cardboard for up to one day, and on plastic or steel for up to three days. There are also reports that people may be able to spread the virus while pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic. We are still learning about this novel zoonotic virus, and it appears that in some rare situations, human to animal transmission can occur.
CDC is aware of a small number animals, including dogs and cats, reportedexternal icon to be infected with SARS-CoV-2 after close contact with people with COVID-19. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently reportedexternal icon a confirmed infection of SARS-CoV-2 in a tiger with a respiratory illness in New York, which is the first confirmed case of SARS-CoV-2 infection in an animal in the United States, as well as the first confirmed infection in a tiger in the world. Several other big cats (tigers and lions) in a neighboring enclosure at the zoo also developed a mild respiratory illness, but all are expected to recover. Officials believe this tiger was likely infected by a zoo employee, suggesting person to tiger spread. Further studies are needed to understand if and how different animals could be affected by SARS-CoV-2.
Limited information is available to characterize the spectrum of clinical illness associated with SARS-CoV-2 infection in animals. Clinical signs thought to be compatible with SARS-CoV-2 infection in animals include fever, coughing, difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, lethargy, sneezing, nasal discharge, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Follow CDC’s guidance on what to do if you are sick. Ask staff to stay home if they are sick. Employees who appear to have symptoms (i.e., fever, cough, or shortness of breath) upon arrival at work or who become sick during the day should immediately be separated from other employees, customers, and visitors and sent home. Inform the staff’s team members if they have been exposed to a potential COVID-19 case, while maintaining confidentiality as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act. Notify the local health department of the potential exposure as well. Ill staff should not return to work until their fever (defined as ≥ 100.4°F) is absent for at least 72 hours without the use of fever reducing medication, other symptoms have improved, and at least 7 days have passed since symptom onset.
Implement sick leave policies for veterinary clinic staff that are flexible, nonpunitive, and consistent with public health guidance, allowing employees to stay home if they have symptoms of respiratory infection.
Follow CDC guidelines for cleaning and disinfecting areas the sick employee visited. If possible, staff should each have their own workspace/equipment and avoid sharing desks/work tools. If these items must be shared, they should be frequently disinfected.
Critical workers, like veterinarians and their staff, can be permitted to continue to work following a potential exposure to COVID-19, provided they remain asymptomatic and additional precautions are implemented to protect them and the workplace. Consider having everyone who enters the clinic, including employees and visitors, wear a cloth face covering over their nose and mouth to contain respiratory secretions, unless engaged in an activity that requires some form of PPE.
Many jurisdictions recognize veterinary practices as essential and are allowing them to operate during the COVID-19 pandemic, but considerations should be made to protect human and animal health. To protect staff and preserve personal protective equipment (PPE) and supplies during the COVID-19 pandemic, veterinary clinics should postpone elective procedures, surgeries, and non-urgent visits, and prioritize urgent and emergency visits and procedures until regular business operations resume in your community.
The greatest risk of COVID-19 exposure to staff at veterinary clinics comes from person-to-person transmission through respiratory droplets from coughing, sneezing, or talking, which is the main way SARS-CoV-2 spreads. Clinic staff should be screened daily, at the beginning of shifts prior to interacting with staff and clients and should practice social distancing. Clinics should take precautions to minimize staff contact with all pet owners. Examples of actions to take to minimize contact with pet owners or other people include:
- Postponing non-urgent or routine procedures (spays, neuters, elective procedures) and appointments. Veterinarians should use professional judgement when determining whether a case is urgent or non-urgentexternal icon.
- Using telemedicine for consults or to help triage patients. Consult your state requirements for telemedicine and veterinary-client-patient relationship (VCPR) requirements.
- Scheduling drop-off appointments or receiving animals from their owners’ vehicles (also called curbside).
- Communicating via telephone or video-chat to maintain social distancing.
- Using online payment and billing to reduce handling credit cards or other potential fomites.
Have a plan in place to handle animals with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 exposure, or potentially compatible clinical signs. Veterinarians should contact their state public health veterinarianpdf iconexternal icon or state animal health officialexternal icon for guidance on testing animals for SARS-CoV-2 infection.
Before scheduled appointments or upon arrival, a staff person should ask if the pet has had any exposure to a person with suspected or confirmed COVID-19.
If a pet owner currently has respiratory symptoms or is a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19, they should not visit the veterinary facility. Consider whether a telemedicine consult is appropriate. If possible, a healthy friend or family member from outside their household should bring the animal to the veterinary clinic. The clinic should use all appropriate precautions to minimize contact with the person bringing the animal to the clinic. If there is an emergency with the animal, the animal should not be denied care.
- If a pet owner is suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19 and must bring their pet to the clinic, the following actions may be taken:
- Communicate via phone call or video chat to maintain social distancing.
- Retrieve the animal from the owner’s vehicle (also called curbside) to prevent the owner from having to enter the clinic or hospital.
- Maintain social distancing and PPE recommendations when interacting with clients.
- Request smaller animals be brought in a plastic carrier to facilitate disinfection after use. Also advise the owner to leave all non-essential items at home to avoid unnecessary opportunities for additional exposure.
- Every effort should be made to prevent ill persons from entering the clinic, without negatively impacting animal welfare
- If an ill pet owner must enter the clinic, consider the following preventive actions:
- Ask that the person wear a cloth face covering to cover his or her nose and mouth. Be prepared to provide a face covering to the ill person if they do not have their own.
- Direct the pet owner and patient to a single exam room or isolation room.
- Limit the number of veterinary staff that enter the room, handle the animal, or interact with the pet owner and wear appropriate PPEpdf icon as described below.
- Clean and disinfect the room, surfaces, supplies, floor, or equipment located within 6 feet of ill pet owners after they leave.
- If an ill pet owner must enter the clinic, consider the following preventive actions:
- If you are a mobile or house call veterinarian and are called upon to evaluate a sick or injured animal in the home of a COVID-19 patient:
- Enter the home only if absolutely necessary. AVMAexternal icon suggests that mobile and house call veterinarians consider examining animals in their vehicle, outside, or seek the assistance of a local clinic. If you must enter the home where someone is sick with COVID-19, wear appropriate PPE.
- PPE should be donned before entering the home and removed only after leaving the home, following appropriate donning and doffing procedurespdf icon.
- If there is a sick person in the home, ask the sick person(s) to confine themselves to another room in the house if possible. If not possible, ask them to wear a cloth face covering and maintain a distance of at least 6 feet (2 meters). Be prepared to provide a face covering to the ill person if they do not have their own. Minimize contact with other household members, even if they appear healthy, as person-to-person transmission can occur before symptom onset.
- Wash hands immediatelypdf icon after removing PPE, handling the animal, or interacting with a sick person or household contact. If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.
- Critical workers, like veterinarians and their staff, can be permitted to continue to work following a potential exposure to COVID-19, provided they remain asymptomatic and additional precautions are implemented to protect them and the workplace.
The clinical spectrum of illness for the SARS-CoV-2 virus remains largely undefined in animals. Animals may present with respiratory or gastrointestinal clinical signs based on the presentation of other coronaviruses more commonly found in animals as well as other emerging coronaviruses, including SARS-CoV-1 infection.
Clinical signs expected to be compatible with possible SARS-CoV-2 infection in mammalian animals may include:
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Nasal/Ocular discharge
Given current limitations in knowledge regarding COVID-19 and companion animals, these PPE guidelines use a cautious approach. Recommendations may change over time, as new information becomes available.
1PPE Standard Precautions should be applied in any setting where veterinary care is delivered and may include use of gloves or protective eyewear depending on the type of procedure and if exposure to fluids, exudates, feces, saliva, or other animal fluids is possible.
2A SARS-CoV-2 or COVID-19 exposure in this context refers to the following conditions within the 14 days prior to presenting for veterinary care:
- Being within approximately 6 feet (2 meters) of a person with suspected or confirmed COVID-19; close contact can occur while an animal is living with, being pet, snuggled, giving kisses or licks, and/or sharing food or bedding with a person.
- Having direct contact with infectious secretions from a person with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 (e.g., being coughed, sneezed or spit on, sharing food or consuming an object that was recently contaminated with an infected person’s mucous or saliva).
3Reusable (i.e. washable) gowns are typically made of polyester or polyester-cotton fabrics. Gowns of these fabrics can be safely laundered according to routine procedures and reused.
4Respiratory protection that is at least as protective as a fit tested NIOSH-certified disposable N95 filtering facepiece respirator is recommended.
- If an N95 respirator is not available, use a combination of a surgical mask and a full face shield.
- Respirator use should be in the context of a complete respiratory protection program in accordance with OSHA Respiratory Protection standard (29 CFR 1910.134), which includes medical evaluations, training, and fit testing.
5 Clinical signs expected to be compatible with possible with SARS-CoV-2 infection in mammalian animals may include:
The decision to test an animal (including companion animals, livestock, and wild or zoo animals) should be made collaboratively using a One Health approach between local, state, and/or federal public health and animal health officials. Animal testing for SARS-CoV-2 is available if public health and animal health officials agree the animal’s case merits testing. Table 1 (below) is not intended to be prescriptive, but is rather intended to help guide priorities given limited resources. Routine testing of animals for COVID-19 is not recommended. Confirmatory testing through USDA’s National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) is not currently available for non-mammalian animals including reptiles, amphibians, birds, or fish.
Currently, there is no evidence that animals can transmit this virus to people. In some rare situations, people have spread this virus to certain types of animals. Veterinarians are strongly encouraged to rule out other, more common causes of illness in animals before SARS-CoV-2 testing. To discuss testing an animal for SARS-CoV-2 in certain circumstances, veterinarians should contact their state public health veterinarianpdf iconexternal icon1 (or designated state official responsible for animal-related issues in public health) and/or their state animal health officialexternal icon2.
Limited information is currently available to characterize SARS-CoV-2 infection in animals; please visit CDC’s COVID-19 and Animals page for the most up-to-date information. Clinical criteria for considering testing for SARS-CoV-2 in animals is based on what is currently known about SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 and is subject to change as additional information becomes available.
Human patients with COVID-19 have symptoms that appear 2-14 days after exposure and include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. The clinical spectrum of SARS-CoV-2 infection in animals is currently unknown, but animals may present with a combination of respiratory symptoms or gastrointestinal illness based on presentation in a small number of animals and what is known about other coronaviruses including SARS-CoV-13. Veterinarians should use their best judgment to determine if an animal has been exposed to people with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 and if the animal has clinical signs compatible with SARS-CoV-2 infection3. Table 1 describes epidemiological risk factors and clinical features that can help guide decisions regarding animal testing.
If public health and animal health2 officials determine that testing an animal for SARS-CoV-2 is appropriate, coordination between One Health partners will be needed. Please refer to USDA’s FAQsexternal icon for sample collection, transport, storage, and result reporting. If samples are sent to state animal health, university, or private laboratories for initial testing, all samples should be collected in duplicate because any positive samples must be confirmed through additional testing by NVSL. USDA is responsible for reporting any animal that tests positive for SARS-CoV-2 in the United States to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE)external icon.
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses. Some coronaviruses cause cold-like illnesses in people, while others cause illness in certain types of animals, such as cattle, camels, and bats. Some coronaviruses, such as canine and feline coronaviruses, only infect animals and do not infect humans.
Risk to people
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) play distinct but complementary roles in regulating the importation of live animals and animal products into the United States. CDC regulates animals and animal products that pose a threat to human health; USDA regulates animals and animal products that pose a threat to agriculture; and FWS regulates importation of endangered species and wildlife that can harm the health and welfare of humans, the interests of agriculture, horticulture, or forestry, and the welfare and survival of wildlife resources.
Some coronaviruses that infect animals have become able to infect humans and then spread between people, but this is rare. Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) are examples of diseases caused by coronaviruses that originated in animals and spread to people. This is what is suspected to have happened with the virus that caused the current outbreak of COVID-19. However, we do not know the exact source of this virus. Public health officials and partners are working hard to identify the source of COVID-19. The first infections were linked to a live animal market, but the virus is now spreading from person to person. The coronavirus most similar to the virus causing COVID-19 is the one that causes SARS.
At this time, there is no evidence that companion animals, including pets, can spread COVID-19 or that they might be a source of infection in the United States.
Risk from imported animals and animal products
CDC does not have evidence to suggest that imported animals or animal products pose a risk for spreading COVID-19 in the United States.
How to stay healthy around animals
In the United States, there is no evidence to suggest that any animals, including pets, livestock, or wildlife, might be a source of COVID-19 infection at this time. However, because all animals can carry germs that can make people sick, it’s always a good idea to practice healthy habits around pets and other animals.
- Wash your hands after handling animals, their food, waste, or supplies.
- Practice good pet hygiene and clean up after pets properly.
- Take pets to the veterinarian regularly and talk to your veterinarian if you have questions about your pet’s health.
For more information, visit CDC’s Healthy Pets, Healthy People website.
Risk to pets
CDC has not received any reports of pets or other animals becoming sick with COVID-19. Further studies are needed to understand if and how different animals could be affected by COVID-19.
How to protect pets if you are sick
If you are sick with COVID-19 (either suspected or confirmed), you should restrict contact with pets and other animals, just like you would around other people. Although there have not been reports of pets or other animals becoming sick with COVID-19, it is still recommended that people sick with COVID-19 limit contact with animals until more information is known about the virus. This can help ensure both you and your animals stay healthy.
When possible, have another member of your household care for your animals while you are sick. Avoid contact with your pet including, petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, and sharing food. If you must care for your pet or be around animals while you are sick, wash your hands before and after you interact with them. For more information visit: What to Do if You are Sick.