CHICAGO — Pets and people — we’re leaning on one another more than ever, but are our constant companions at risk for COVID-19? And what if a pet owner gets ill with the virus? Who will care for the animals we hold so dear?
Social distancing is not in their DNA. Pets are by our side through the best and most uncertain times. And in the midst of a crisis keeping us apart from neighbors and friends, man’s best friend could be considered an essential service.
Griffin, 12, requires regular treatment for his severe arthritis. His owner Greg Hiss says its really important for him because he struggles pretty badly when he’s not able to stand because of the arthritis.
Pets are handed off at the door at Heal Veterinary Clinic on the city’s North Side, where owner Dr. Derrick Landini said he and his team are offering essential procedures and preventive care — and reassurance about how COVID-19 may impact our beloved cats and dogs.
“People are always concerned can my pet get this virus also. Right now there is no confirmed cases that your pet can get this and give it back to you it’s a people, people problem not a dog to people or cat to people problem,” Landini said.
However, there are recommendations in place.
“One of the recommendation is not to share food with your pets even if you are not sick at this time because we know COVID the person could be sick or infected and not show any clinical signs,” Landini said. “So, stop kissing on them, you can hug them and pet them, but kissing on them like all of us do and share food. I’m a veterinarian so I have to practice what I preach.”
As the side effects of social isolation sink in more are turning to their pets for comfort.
“Animals of course give unconditional love all they want is food water and some cuddles and frankly just having companionship in this very strange situation particularly people who are alone and isolated,” Tracy Elliott, president and CEO of the Anti-Cruelty Society, said.
At the Anti-Cruelty Society, adoptions have been temporarily suspended but will resume by appointment only in the coming days. In the meantime, Elliott says just like hospitals are clearing room to prepare for an influx of patients, the shelter is freeing up space for pets displaced during the crisis.
“The main goal for us has been to reduce the number of animals we have in the building and try to get as many animals in homes as possible in anticipation of accepting emergency intakes for folks who may be hospitalized or in other ways can’t take care of their animals,” Elliot said.
They’ve been able to get more than 300 animals out the door — mostly into foster care but expect to fill up empty crates in the coming weeks to come to the rescue of people impacted by COVID-19.
“They do not have to permanently relinquish the animal we will care for the animal until they are able to care for it and they can get that animal back in the family where it belongs,” Elliot said.
That peace of mind can ease some stress just as our pets help relieve anxiety in these tough times.