This website provides up-to-date resources and information regarding COVID-19 for Canadian animal shelters. The information was compiled through a collaborative effort between Humane Canada™, the Ontario Shelter Medicine Association (OSMA) and the Association Vétérinaire Québécoise de Médecine de Refuge (AVQMR).
Each section will be updated regularly and will be marked as such. Content editor: Dr. Linda Jacobson.
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced animal shelters to make major changes
in their activities, some of which are very positive for the animals and the
communities. Even when the situation with the human coronavirus improves,
limiting admissions, expanding foster care, finding alternatives to intakes and
improving outcome pathways must continue.
Keep the population in the shelter as low as possible to maintain capacity while minimizing stress for animals and facing staffing challenges. Find alternatives to shelter intake whenever possible. all intakes that are not urgent should remain appointment-based regardless of the public health situation. Emergency intakes consist of the following:
- Animals that are sick, injured or in danger or for which there is no alternative to intake
- Law enforcement assistance
- Dangerous animals
Healthy stray cats should not be impounded or admitted to shelter. When admission is unavoidable, return-to-field should be considered for all healthy cats.
Stray dogs should not be impounded in communities where roaming is socially acceptable. Finders should be encouraged to help locate owners. Transfers and transport should be planned with caution, especially between geographically distant areas or those with differing COVID-19 prevalence.
Provide Positive Alternatives To Intakes
It’s essential that shelters continue to help their communities. Offer resources to assist with short-term problems.
- Building relationships and offer support and advice
- Food or litter delivery
- Behavioural resources
- Telemedicine whenever possible
- Help with finding fosters directly
Ask about family, friends and neighbourhood options. Assist with direct rehoming efforts using online platforms or Facebook groups, and using social media. Examples: Helping Lost Pets, Kijiiji Lost and Found Pets, Facebook Lost and Found Pets groups and Nextdoor.
When Intakes Are Unavoidable
- Create outcome pathways prior to intake whenever possible (e.g. intake-to-placement, facilitated adoption).
- Use foster placement rather than the shelter for housing pets.
- Ensure that adoption pathways are available. Continuing intakes without outcomes will compromise welfare, lead to overcrowding and result in disease outbreaks.
- The Future Is Here: 10 Steps Shelters Can Take Now To Build Better Animal Services
- Animal Services’ Role in COVID-19 Support
- NACA Statements on COVID-19
- Online Foster Orientation
Last Updated: December 6, 2021
Authors: Dr. Gabrielle Carriere; Dr. Alexandre Ellis; Dr. Genevieve Lessard
COVID-19 INFECTION IN PETS
What’s Known About COVID-19 In Pets
COVID-19 is almost exclusively a human disease. However, some other animals can become infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus and, less commonly, develop clinical disease. The number of species in which the virus has been found has expanded over time, but it has not caused epidemic disease in any species other than humans. Clinical illness is uncommon in animals, so far.
Note that infection means that the virus gets into animals and causes an immune response, reflected by antibodies. Positive PCR tests are suggestive of infection, but don’t prove that it occurs (i.e. the virus could be passively present in the respiratory tract and not enter cells). Disease means clinical illness caused by the virus.
The SARS-CoV-2 virus has now been identified in a number of species, including cats, dogs, ferrets, mink, non-human primates, deer and more. The main concerns with animal infections are:
- Animal-human transmission. This is still very rare and the virus is overwhelmingly transmitted from human to human, or, less commonly, from humans to animals.
- Wildlife reservoirs. This would be more of a concern if there was a sense that the virus could ever be eradicated, but this seems increasingly unlikely.
- Mutations in animals that are then transmitted to people. This is a real, but currently theoretical, concern. Mutations developing in humans are much more likely.
Here’s a table about reported* animal infections, based on the Worms and Germs reviews:
|Animal type||SARS-CoV-2 infection reported||COVID-19 disease reported||Transmission to humans||Transmission between conspecifics|
|Cats (including big cats)||Yes||Yes||No||Yes (rare)|
|Mustelids (mink and ferrets)||Yes||Yes||Yes (from mink)||Yes|
|Bats**||Yes (some species)||Yes||Possible||Possible|
|Pigs||“Not really”||“Not really”||No||No|
* Not reported doesn’t mean not possible, but in most of the species mentioned, if there was significant infection, disease and transmission, we would know by now.
** May initially have mutated and “jumped” to humans but this is still not certain. The mutated virus is now a human virus, not an animal virus (regardless of where it first came from).
Stay away from animals if we have Covid
Commercial PCR testing for SARS-CoV-2 is now available in Canada. Recommendations remain the same as in 2020. Routine testing is not recommended by any Canadian health agency. The Canadian Council of Chief Veterinary Officer’s position statement states “Testing of animals for SARS-CoV-2 is not recommended”. Veterinarians should contact their provincial or provincial or territorial animal health authority if they wish to test a pet. Three conditions must be met: exposure to an infected person; other signs of respiratory infection have been ruled out; and the pet has clinical signs of COVID-19.
To prevent COVID-19 in shelters, pets (especially juveniles) should remain in their own homes or foster homes whenever possible. Cat cages should be portalized to reduce stress, which greatly increases the risk of respiratory disease in shelter cats. If there is a suspicion of a COVID-19 shelter infection or outbreak, put appropriate isolation procedures in place while determining next steps: PPE should include masks, face shields, gloves, and gowns. If your shelter does not have a veterinarian on staff, it is best to consult with an experienced shelter veterinarian. Contact OSMA or AVQMR for suggestions.
There is still no evidence that pets are an infection risk for people. It makes sense to treat pets like other family members in terms of COVID-19 quarantine and isolation measures. Dr. Weese has said this since the beginning, and it remains reasonable advice:
- “[Pets] are people too, when it comes to SARS-CoV-2.
- If you are infected, try to stay away from animals – all animals, human and otherwise.
- If your [pet] has been exposed to SARS-CoV-2, keep it inside and away from others.”
Intake And Handling Of COVID-19-Exposed Animals
For animals with no known or suspected exposure to COVID-19, no special handling protocols are needed upon shelter intake.
Intake of animals exposed to COVID-19 should be avoided if possible. Preferable alternatives include having friends or family care for the animal or sheltering the animal in place with daily care. When intake of COVID-19-exposed pets is necessary, a few safety measures can be implemented in order to limit exposure to other animals as well as staff. .
Measures for handling and housing exposed, non-clinical, pets admitted to the shelter include:
- Separating these animals from the non-exposed population for 7-14 days from the time of last exposure, prior to placement in foster homes or adoption. Toronto Humane has decreased the quarantine period to 7 days for dogs and 10 days for cats, based on available data about infection risks and incubation periods.
- Animals reclaimed by the owners or acquaintances can be released prior to the end of this period.
- Wearing PPE when handling these animals (face masks, gloves, gowns).
Bathing of exposed animals upon intake is not necessary. PCR testing is not recommended unless clinical COVID-19 is suspected – see above
- Canadian Council of Chief Veterinary Officers’ Position Statement on Testing Pets for COVID-19
- Covid Review on Animals, Worms and Germs Blog
- SARS-CoV-2 in Deer, Worms and Germs Blog
- Management of COVID-19-exposed or infected animals
- Disclosure for foster parents and adopters
Last Updated: December 6, 2021
Authors: Dr. Alexandre Ellis; Dr. Linda Jacobson
Pathway Principles During COVID-19
It’s a truism that rescues and shelters must have viable outcome pathways, but unfortunately it has to be stated – especially now. Outcomes MUST be available to match the needs of incoming animals. This is so that the number of animals in care does not increase beyond what a minimal number of on-site staff can manage. Pathways must protect the health and safety of both humans and the animals.
Return To Owner
Stray animals should ideally be returned to owners in the field without entering the shelter. Reunification with the owner can be through an Animal Control Officer (ACO) or the finder. To help with this, ask finders to hold onto the animal until an owner can be found. Encourage finders to post photos and Found posters on local social media sites. Ask about family, friends and neighbourhood options. Assist with direct rehoming efforts using online platforms or Facebook groups, and using social media. Examples: Helping Lost Pets, Kijiiji Lost and Found Pets, Facebook Lost and Found Pets groups and Nextdoor.
When the owner is located, connect the finder with the owner. Ask ACOs to actively seek owners in the community or by tracing identification. If no owner is found, ACOs should schedule a time to bring the animal into the shelter. Once an owner is found, documents can be emailed or photos of documents texted to verify ownership. Email redemption paperwork and schedule a time for picking up an animal. Alternatively, offer a drop-off service.
Another option is to have the finder foster the stray animal for the shelter. To do this, schedule an intake appointment at the shelter or a telemedicine consultation. Once the intake is complete, foster the stray animal to the finder.
Add online applications to your website for people to apply for animals. Staff can review applications and schedule a virtual viewing. Set up a virtual meeting with staff, foster and the potential adopter, where the adopter can see the animal and the staff or foster can answer questions. Complete the adoption electronically by sending the adoption contract to the potential adopter. Email vet records and any support material to adopter. Once all the paperwork is complete, schedule pick-up or offer a drop off service. Have staff or foster homes drop animals off to adopters. Provide virtual follow-up support for adopters.
Foster programs are essential during this time. The foster process should be simple and remove barriers. Fosters should ideally be trained and ready to provide care before the need arises. Recruit and onboard new fosters regularly. All paperwork and training can be completed online. This will allow for minimal contact when a foster is picking up an animal. Offer a drop-off service to further minimize risk. Prepare for animals needing foster for different reasons. Some animals may need foster due to a family struggling economically or if they are sick/hospitalized and in need of emergency boarding. There may be animals who need ongoing medical or behavioural care, or kittens that need help. Send animals to foster to keep your shelter resources available for other animals or in the event your operations are disrupted.
Empower and encourage your foster parents to find new homes for their foster animals and manage most or all of the adoption process.
- BC SPCA Field Operations, Return to Owner in Field: Municipal Contract Procedures for COVID-19 Response.
- American Pets Alive Shelter Protocols COVID-19 Animal Shelter Preparedness Guide
- Emergency animal boarding protocols, contracts and agreements: BC SPCA Emergency Animal Boarding Program.
- Maddie’s Fund COVID-19 and Emergency Foster Care Resources
Lat Updated: December 6, 2021
Author: Kim Monteith
SPAY-NEUTER AND TRAP-NEUTER-RETURN
Essential Shelter Services
As Canada faces ongoing uncertainties during the pandemic, restrictions to shelters and veterinary clinics continue to change across the country. If shelter services are considered “essential” and the primary focus of the shelter is population control and/or adoptions, it stands to reason that spay/neuter services should also continue in some capacity. With that in mind, each organization needs to determine the best method of resuming spay-neuter surgeries.
Euthanasia should never be utilized as an alternative to releasing unsterilized animals to adopters/foster homes.
Resuming Spay-Neuter Operations
As provinces and territories change and lift restrictions, each clinic will need to decide how to resume spay-neuter operations.
There are many considerations for doing this safely and responsibly, such as:
- Implementing measures to limit client contact through the use of virtual bookings and payments
- Curbside drop off and pick up
- The use of apps to facilitate timing of intake
Clinics should be prepared for inventory shortages, modifications to staffing and clinic flow, and adjustments to financial/business planning.
The COVID-19 Wellness Clinic Preparedness Guide is an excellent tool to assist clinics in the development of safe and reasonable approaches and policies for operating spay-neuter clinics. The Shelter Med Portal also has two lectures on spay/neuter during COVID-19 to assist in preparation for reopening.
Colonies And Colony Caregivers
Shelters should support community cat caregivers who utilize TNR services, to continue caring for their colonies. Shelters and rescue groups should be preparing for the next season by repairing and replacing traps, ensuring supplies and social distancing protocols are in place, and educating the public about the importance of TNR. If your TNR services have changed, ensure that those changes are broadcast to your clients by posting on your website, social media, and by posting easy-to-understand signage at the clinic/shelter. If your organization operates a TNR food bank, consider how you may be able to continue offering this service on a non-contact basis.
Neighborhood cats’ COVID-19 page offers help, advice and protocols for TNR, colony caregivers and community cat advocates.
Megestrol Acetate As An Oral Contraceptive In Cats
Staff shortages, supply chain disruption, and a backlog of surgeries may lead to increased wait-times for spay/neuter appointments. Oral contraception with megestrol acetate (MA) is an option for short-term contraception of female cats until spay/neuter services are available. Low dose MA maximizes efficacy while minimizing side effects.
The recommended oral dosage for cats not showing estrus (“heat”) signs is about 2.5 mg/cat weekly (0.625 mg/kg/week) for up to 30 weeks. The dosage for cats showing signs of heat is 5 mg/cat daily for three days followed by the standard weekly dose. The pills must be compounded into a liquid formulation to allow safe dosing, but are affordable (majority of the cost is in the compounding). Veterinarians prescribing MA to colony cats need to consider the legalities of the VCPR as it pertains to colony cats.
MA is contraindicated in pregnant cats as it may cause fetal abnormalities and dystocia. Side effects at higher doses include transient diabetes.
- Megestrol Acetate FAQ
- COVID-19 Guide for Community Cat Caregivers
- Webinar: Spay-Neuter and TNR During COVID-19
- Resuming Spay/Neuter and Wellness Clinics: Preparedness Guide
- Help For Community Cats, TNR and Colony Caregivers During COVID-19
- Spay/Neuter Assessment Checklist
- ASPCA Statement Concerning Spay and Neuter of Shelter Animals During the COVID-19 Crisis
Last Updated: December 6, 2021
Authors: Dr. Tracy Satchell; Dr. Hanna Booth
CHALLENGES FOR ANIMAL CONTROL
Challenges For Animal Control During COVID-19
Animal bylaws and mandates of municipal animal control services vary significantly geographically across Canada. As an essential service in communities, animal control operations have continued to respond to animal emergencies during the COVID-19 crisis.
Active measures should be taken to mitigate unnecessary exposure to the virus for animal control workers, and to reduce non-essential shelter animal intake. Duties that can be performed remotely should be identified, to minimize interaction with the public and the number of staff on site. These can include various enforcement classifications and scheduling appointments to attend the shelter.
Animal control workers will be required to take additional protective measures to help mitigate the risk of infection from/spreading of SARS-CoV-2 during their daily operations.
Appropriate PPE (disposable gown/hazmat suit; surgical grade mask; face shield/goggles; disposable procedure gloves; shoe/boot covers) is required for an animal control response to a location with someone who is sick or has been exposed to COVID-19. All efforts should be made for ACOs to avoid entering the homes of COVID-19 exposed/positive individuals.
Shelters should work with their local animal control services, to develop strategies to reduce non-essential shelter intake. This could include defining high priority/emergency calls vs. non-emergency calls and deciding on animal control activities appropriate for each specific community during the pandemic. If feasible, cats that are not injured or in distress should be left in place, as they are often owned by someone in the community. Whenever possible, approaches allowing animals to remain in their homes should be employed. This can include working with neighbours, next-of-kin and landlords/superintendents to assign a caretaker for the pet(s) and develop a schedule to ensure appropriate standards of care are met. These strategies are especially effective when the owner will return home within a few days.
Last Updated: December 6, 2021
Authors: Dr. Shelley Hutchings; Dr. Esther Attard
CARING FOR KITTENS
Healthy Kittens With A Mother Should Not Be Admitted
Kittens are the most vulnerable shelter population and most “orphan” kittens have actually been removed from their mothers. Recognizing this, many shelters have already implemented a “Don’t Kitnap the Kittens” program. This push, first advocated by the Arizona Humane Society, has been massively accelerated by the pandemic.
Only kittens that are sick, injured or at risk (starvation, cruelty, neglect) should be admitted to the shelter during this crisis. Refuse intake of healthy neonatal kittens, while at the same time supporting and educating the finder. Advise the finder to return them to the exact location they were found, and wait to see if the mother returns. Finders can then provide food and shelter as needed. If leaving the kittens in place with their mother is not possible, support the finder with supplies and training on care of neonatal kittens until the shelter re-opens or the kittens can be adopted from their foster home.
If neither option is possible, arrange for rapid foster placement, or shelter staff should immediately return the kittens to the field if this is judged to be safe for them.
What’s Best For Kittens
Now, more than ever, we must acknowledge that:
- Healthy, unweaned kittens do not fall into the category of sick or injured.
- Healthy, unweaned kittens are unlikely to be orphaned – and only become so when they are removed from where their mother is, usually nearby.
- Kittens are healthiest, short and long-term, when raised by their mother.
- Healthy kittens of any age found/seen outside are not an emergency for shelter intake.
When Kittens Need To Be Fostered
A 2018 study by Hannah Shaw (aka The Kitten Lady) found that 75% of foster parents started because they found a kitten. Mobilize the finders, have kitten kits pre-prepared, and make use of training videos (see links below).
For kittens that are in foster care, consider training foster parents to administer vaccinations OR facilitate curbside appointments. Vaccine timing and frequency for foster kittens should be determined after a risk assessment for infectious disease. This can be done through a telehealth consult.
- COVID-19 Return to Field Protocol for Neonates
- Recommendations for Kitten Intake During the COVID-19 Pandemic
- Orphaned Kitten Care How-To
- Printable Orphaned Kitten Care Guide
- Socializing Kittens Under 8 Weeks Old
- Socializing Kittens Over 8 Weeks Old
- How Old is This Kitten? Infographic
- How to Tell if a Kitten Needs Help
- Neonatal Kitten Care “Go-Kit”
- Found a Kitten Outdoors? Here’s how to know what to do
Last Updated: April 29, 2021
Author: Stephanie Miller, RVT
ESSENTIAL MEDICAL PROCEDURES
Balancing Animal Care With Social Responsibility
In the COVID-19 environment, veterinarians have a social responsibility to limit services in order to reduce risk to members of the public, staff teams and themselves. At the same time, veterinarians have a desire to assist and to support animals. In this environment, it is critical to assess all activities within a risk-based decision-making framework such as this example:
Veterinarians should follow whatever local, provincial or territorial guidelines are in effect for their region, if restrictions have been placed on your professional activities. Additional questions should be layered over this decision-making guide in locations where personal protective equipment (PPE) shortages exist and inadequate supply may further restrict veterinary activities.
The most widely cited general guideline providing guidance about whether specific procedures should be considered essential has been written by Dr. Scott Weese and posted by the Ontario Veterinary Medical Association. A similar guideline was developed by the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association. The University of Wisconsin Shelter Medicine Program has used the Weese guideline and developed a more detailed approach related to common medical and surgical issues in a shelter environment.
Tailoring Services To A Time of High Uncertainty
Pent-up demand for services, the economic pressures of the pandemic, and a highly variable rate of rate of new human infections (often with variants of concern) in some jurisdictions coupled with a progressive vaccine rollout all contribute to an ongoing level of uncertainty. Local conditions and public health guidance should always govern your decision-making. Although PPE shortages have largely been abated in Canada, sudden increases in demand might still be expected and therefore cautious and prudent use of this precious resource is still important.
Veterinarians will need to conintue to adjust operations in the weeks and months to come, as services gradually expand beyond emergencies. Shelters likewise will need to balance animal welfare priorities with public safety considerations in a dance that will shift in parallel with changing human infection rates.
Shelters that are planning to expand from their current emergency response might consider many important factors.
- University of Wisconsin Shelter Medicine Program Guidelines on Essential Medical and Surgical Care for Shelters & Spay/Neuter Clinics
- COVID-19: A Guide to Reopening Veterinary Medicine in Ontario
- Ontario Veterinary Medical Association and Dr. Scott Weese’s Veterinary Medicine During A Time Of Restriction Of Elective Services And Social Distancing (Apr 17, 2020 version)
- Canadian Veterinary Medical Association Guidelines for Elective Services and Social Distancing
Last Updated: May 1, 2021
Author: Dr. Shane Bateman
COMMUNICATING WITH YOUR COMMUNITY
The Community Is The Shelter
Appropriate and effective communication to community members during the COVID-19 pandemic is imperative. Any modification to services should be communicated in as clear and concise a manner as possible, to ensure understanding and appropriate information-sharing. Community members are the most valuable asset to a shelter and can greatly contribute to the number of lives saved when disruption to services occurs, for example by fostering shelter animals, waiting to surrender animals, using alternative approaches to dealing with lost or stray animals, and arranging for caregivers from their own networks in the event they are no longer able to care for their pets. This is the “community as shelter” model. The shelter can support community members to help in these capacities, among others, by providing information and counselling by telephone or online.
Why Are Shelter Services Limited?
Animal shelter services have been deemed essential in order to protect animals in distress and maintain animal life-saving. However, a number of measures have had to be taken to safeguard public health and ensure shelters do not become overcrowded. Adjustments continue to be made as the situation changes.
It is critical that SARS-CoV-2 transmission risks to staff, volunteers and the public be minimized by suspending all services that do not directly contribute to emergency rescue, intake and care of pets in immediate need, or placement of those animals in temporary or permanent homes. Shelters should primarily operate as disaster/emergency response centers, while most pets are managed in foster care or their own homes. That is why organizations have suspended non-essential intake and are providing remote adoption and foster counseling. Overall, as elsewhere in the community, it is necessary to reduce the interaction of people at animal shelters, by limiting the number of people who come in at a given time and reducing the number of staff members working on site.
What Can Pet Owners Do To Mitigate This Crisis And Keep Their Pets Safe at Home?
Emergency plans must include pets. Apart from ensuring that pet owners have all the supplies for their pets in case they need to self-isolate for 14 days, having an emergency plan also means identifying alternative caregivers for pets, in case the owner is no longer able to care for them. This will eliminate the need for the animals to be taken in by a shelter. Surrender to a facility can be devastating for the owner, is stressful for the animal, increases exposure by additional people and animals, and puts added strain on the shelter’s capacity. More details can be found here.
Here is an infographic with key messages.
Should I test my pet?
At this time Canadian veterinary and public health agencies, and the Council of Chief Veterinary Officers for Canada do not recommend that companion animals be routinely tested. There is no specific treatment for animals diagnosed with SARS-CoV-2, so testing will not alter management. Veterinarians are strongly encouraged to rule out other, more common causes of illness in animals before considering testing for SARS-CoV-2. The decision to test an animal should be made in consultation with local, provincial and federal public health and animal health officials. This concise infographic can be shared with the public.
How To Communicate About Stray Animals And Community Cats
It’s essential to communicate to the public that, even in normal times, many cats do not need to be taken to a shelter. Most finders have no idea that cats are thirteen times more likely to return to their owners by means other than admission to a shelter. For example, they may be reunited with their owners via members of the public, if the cat is wearing an ID tag or through lost and found posters or online notices, and through local neighbourhood searches. Or, the cat may not be lost at all but would have found its way home if not “rescued”. This is more frequently the case than people may realize. Healthy unsocialized community cats suffer in confinement, and should be left where they are.
At any time, but especially now, organizations should support community members who are concerned about stray animals by giving them information about how they can help to reunite a lost pet with their owner without having to bring the animal to the shelter, or how they can best support cats in their community.
Some communities have local bylaws in place that prevent dogs and cats from roaming freely. Where such bylaws exist, there may be a need to advocate to municipal officials to allow for not taking in healthy free-roaming cats, in order to maintain a shelter’s life-saving capacity, limit activities that increase person-to-person contact, and increase the likelihood that owned cats will return home.
Lost Pet Resources/Templates That Can be Customized to your Community
- Community Planning Resources
- Downloadable Communication Resources to Customize and Share
- Advice for the Public: COVID-19 and Pets
- Guidance for Pet Owners
- Key Public Messages from Shelters
- Feral Cat Advocacy
Last Updated: April 30, 2021
Author: Dr. Toolika Rastogi
RECOVERY PLANNING AND OPPORTUNITIES
We Are In This Together
Our industry is one in which we should all feel proud to belong. We supported each other by quickly providing information and reassurance. Our veterinary regulators acted to relax policies which proved crucial in business continuity. We’ve been creative, finding numerous ways to work. We’ve kept our staff and the public safe, whilst ensuring animal welfare was maintained. We’ve also shared with one another, and with our medical colleagues. We are resilient. By continuing to support each other and plan together, we can emerge stronger at the end of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“While no one can predict with any certainty the economic, political and cultural changes this crisis will have on Canada and the rest of the world, we know these changes will be significant. The high level of collaboration among governments, businesses and civil society managing this pandemic should give Canadians confidence about our collective ability to deal with the long-lasting changes it will bring.”Canadian Business Resilience Network
Cities, provinces and territories are gradually starting to reopen businesses, services and public spaces. Their plans are based on the advice of public health experts and require a gradual and thoughtful approach. Shelters are planning for recovery and reopening in a similar way.
COVID-19 Recovery Planning Kit For Shelters. The kit contains a Roadmap for Recovery, Infection Control Adjustments, an associated Poster and Training Module, and a how-to guide for dealing with COVID-19-Exposed Animals in the shelter. The documents are downloadable and editable. With thanks to the Toronto Humane Society” (OSMA, 2020)
COVID-19 has served as a catalyst for change .Some of the lessons learned will help build a stronger animal sheltering and veterinary care industry, one that better serves its community and animals. Sheltering organizations are talking about a new paradigm of “Social Services for Pets” or a “Safety Net for Animals”.
American Pets Alive! created a list of new programs that shelters should consider in re-imagining themselves. Some suggestions include:
- Intake needs and assessment triage services
- Supported self-rehoming
- High-volume foster placement
- Adoption completed by foster parents
Operations need to be re-invented or updated, for example by using social media platforms, telehealth and partnerships. Resources should be re-allocated to “Keeping Families Together” programs; housing most pets in foster; and building neighbourhood programs. APA will help shelters with questions about anything regarding shelter operations.
Click here for more details.
Planning To Re-Open Spay-Neuter and Vaccine Clinics
COVID-19 Spay/Neuter and Vaccine Clinic Preparedness Guide
By Aimee St. Arnaud, Elizabeth Berliner, Jennifer Bolser,Gina Clemmer, Natalie Corwin and Cynthia (Cindy) Karsten. Click here to gain access to the archived webinar. The webinar was outstanding as it provides practical advice and useful links on all of the categories listed in the framework above. Suggestions include:
- Pre-prepping everything possible. Appointments-only processes are highly recommended, as this allows for prioritizing of patients, pre-payment, and pre-check-ins. Several ways to perform pre-check-ins were discussed, such as using the Waitlist.me free restaurant app; apps like Docusign for electronic signatures and curbside/parking lot check-ins.
- Check outs. Text or email invoices and any other discharge paperwork.
- Communication to the public. Important so they know what to expect when they show up. Clear instructions on prominent signage at the front doors. Website, radio, TV, and community papers can all be used as ways to communicate.
- Physical capacity. Most shelters will need to reopen at reduced capacity as physical distancing is still needed and it will take time to test the new way of operating. This means it will take longer to process each animal. More time also enables staff to think creatively about how to ensure patient and staff safety. This will therefore require a change in staffing levels and changes in staff scheduling, such as staggered shifts.
- Communicating with staff. Begin each day by announcing a staff checklist for what is to be done for the day to ensure staff/animal/public safety.
Rethinking Policy and Legislations for the Animal Sheltering Industry
The following document outlines suggested policy and legislative changes for local governments to maintain and enhance the gains made during the pandemic and rethink sheltering in a post-COVID world.
- Community-Supported Sheltering Policy Platform for State and Local Governments
- Community-Supported Animal Sheltering Policy Platform (Canadian Document)
Key Resources for Financing and Fundraising
The crisis has affected the global economy and no doubt there will be a long road to recovery from financial impact. There are some funding resources in addition to the traditional banks that shelters should explore. Some are in the form of grants or fundraising sites. A few are listed below:
- PetSmart Charities® of Canada. “PetSmart Charities is evaluating conditions resulting from COVID-19 (coronavirus), and the best ways we can support our partners, pet parents and the pets they love. If you are an organization that is working within the official COVID-19 response efforts, email to inquire about possible grant assistance.”
- GoFundme now has a subscription for free fundraising options for not-for-profits.
- Facebook offers easy options to create fundraisers, either by individuals raising funds for a not-for-profit or by not-for-profit organisations directly. Learn how to start a Facebook fundraiser here.
- American Pets Alive! guide to Fundraising
Last Updated: April 30, 2021
Author: Dr. Shalini Ramsubeik
KEY COVID-19 RESOURCES FOR CANADIAN ANIMAL SHELTERS
Canadian Veterinary and Sheltering Organizations – COVID-19 Resources
- Guidance for veterinarians and the public – veterinary and zoonotic aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic from Dr. Scott Weese
- Canadian Veterinary Medical Association COVID-19 FAQ
- Ontario Shelter Medicine Association COVID-19 Guidelines and Blogs
- Toronto Humane Society Infection Control Protocol – Updated for COVID-19
Top Five COVID-19 Sites for Shelters and Animal Controls
- Advice and Guidelines for Shelters and Animal Controls
- National Animal Control Association Announcements and Resources
- American Pets! Alive! The Future is Here!
- American Pets Alive! COVID-19 Protocols
- Emergency Foster Care Resources (and much more)