We here at Washington State Service Dog Association would like to take the time to address the global COVID-19 pandemic and how to protect yourselves and your service dogs/assistance animals. We recognize that several of our readers may be immuno-compromised, have disabilities that impede mobility, have chronic conditions, etc. that put them in the “at risk” category for this virus, or know someone who is. The following statements reflect science-based facts and information based on data from the W.H.O. and the C.D.C., as well as from Veterinarians for information related to dogs/animals. It is important to stay informed with facts; there is no need to be fearful.
Can My Service Dog or Assistance Animal Get COVID-19?
There is currently NO evidence that dogs or cats can become infected with COVID-19. COVID-19 is NOT the same as CCoV or CCRoV (Canine Coronavirus Disease and Canine Respiratory Coronavirus). Most coronaviruses tend to be very species specific, and cross-species transmission is uncommon.
It IS possible that if a person infected with COVID-19 were to sneeze or cough on an animal, that the animal could become contaminated and another person could then touch the animal and contract the virus. That being said, veterinary experts believe the risk for transmission would be LOW.
Animals living with persons who are sick should be quarantined (at home) away from other animals and people. It is also wise to avoid contact with your animals if you are sick, if possible, to prevent possible exposure and low-level transmission to other persons.
If you notice a change in your animal’s health, contact your veterinarian.
What Extra Cleaning/Grooming Steps Should I Take?
Currently, there is no need to do anything extra with your pets in terms of hygiene or grooming. It is always recommended to wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds before and after interacting with any animal. If you wish to reduce the spread of all germs, you can use paw wipes, paw cleaner/ soap & water when your pets come in and out of the house. Animals need not wear face masks or ‘protective gear’. Some handlers may choose to use a Shed Defender or similar article of canine clothing, which is fine- but isn’t likely to stop the spread of various germs.
Under NO circumstances should you use bleach or harsh chemicals on your animals, euthanize, or abandon your pets amid fears of COVID-19.
Source: AKC – Can Dogs Get Coronavirus?
Keeping Yourself and Your Service Dog Safe
The world has seen unnecessary instances of panic buying in stores, and in some cases, there has been violence. During times of high traffic in public, it is advised to use human assistance if possible, so as to keep you and your service animal safe. If you are an “at risk” person for contracting the virus and/or have troubles with mobility that a service animal mitigates, it may be best to stay home and use either a delivery service or ask someone to shop for you. Avoiding public transportation and larger service dog ‘meetups’ during this time are also some things to strongly consider if you are “at risk.”
Some stores have opened up an hour before/during regular business hours for those who need extra time or assistance shopping to do so, but a majority have not- you may always call your local store(s) to ask if this is a current policy or to request it. Many restaurants in Washington and throughout the U.S. are now offering carry-out, drive thru, and/or delivery amid the closing of dine-in services.
Public Access During the Pandemic
It may be difficult to handle access issues because of the current situation as well. Keep in mind that many stores are hiring extra (and typically temporary) employees to assist with the large influx of customers, and these employees may have little to no knowledge of the ADA or applicable service dog laws. While the lack in employee training might be frustrating, it is somewhat understandable given the circumstances. Normally, we encourage persons to carry info cards to help clear up any issues, but businesses may be less willing to take or look at them. If that is the case, remain calm and try to verbalize the law to the best of your ability. If you are still denied access, you may need to leave and follow the steps listed in this article: The DO’s and DON’TS of Access Disputes and Denials
Financial Hardships & Aid
With the recent closing of many businesses, we know many members may experience financial hardships. We encourage you to look into your own state’s unemployment office website information or to call them to explore your options. Washington State’s may be found here. If you are low on food for your animals, you can also call your local animal shelters to see if they have food donations available.
As of now, the best ways to prevent the contraction and spread of COVID-19 are to:
- Regularly wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer (at least 60% alcohol), especially after touching frequently touched surfaces
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands
- Practice social distancing- at least 3ft. (1m.) between yourself and another person (6+ ft, if possible, under newer recommendations)
- Self isolation may be best if you are “at risk”
- Avoid close contact with persons who are sick
- Stay home if you are sick and contact your healthcare provider
- Cover your mouth and nose with tissue when you sneeze or cough, or do so into your elbow
- If you ARE sick, use a face mask if you are around other people
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily
Source: CDC COVID-19 Prevention
Image Source:WA Governor’s Office
The guidelines outlined in this statement are relatively universal at present time, but if you are not located in the United States, please refer to both the W.H.O. guidelines and the guidelines from your country’s health organization as well.
Mental Health Resources
If recent events have you feeling overwhelmed, anxious and/or depressed, please reach out to a trusted friend, family member, or a mental health professional.
The National Suicide Prevention Hotline in the U.S. is 1-800-273-8255
Washington State Crisis Line Resources can be found here
The Veteran’s Crisis Line can be reached at 1-800-273-8255
The TrevorLifeline can be reached at 1-866-488-7386
A list of international hotlines can be found here
This document will be updated as needed. Stay informed, stay safe, and keep calm- we will all carry on and overcome this as a community.