Shelter Medicine experts convene for new guidance on COVID-19 exposed dogs and cats
Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, experts from the CDC, AVMA, and leading academic shelter medicine programs convened to develop safety protocols for animal control officers, veterinarians, and shelter staff when handling animals exposed to people with COVID. It was known that people could pass the virus to cats and dogs, but not whether these animals posed a threat of re-transmitting the virus to other animals or to people working with them. As a result, the first safety guidelines recommended quarantining exposed animals for 14 days out of an abundance of caution.
Now, two years later, Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program at the University of Florida joined other leading academic shelter medicine programs to evaluate risks associated with COVID-19 in dogs and cats coming from COVID-19-exposed households. After reviewing the published literature and field experience, the Shelter Medicine Academic Consortium has issued new guidelines recommending elimination of quarantines for animals exposed to COVID. The guidance was developed by the Shelter Medicine Programs at the University of Florida, University of California-Davis, Cornell University, University of Wisconsin, The Ohio State University, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and the Association of Shelter Veterinarians.
Updated quarantine guidelines for the intake and sheltering of dogs and cats exposed to SARS-CoV-2 (virus that causes COVID-19):
The Shelter Medicine Academic Consortium (SMAC) recommends elimination of quarantine periods for dogs and cats from COVID-19-exposed households. There is no evidence that companion animals play a significant role in spreading COVID-19. Transmission risk remains overwhelmingly human-to-human. As many shelters have returned to standard operations without quarantines and animal intake numbers returned toward pre-pandemic levels, there have been no reported adverse impacts on shelter population health or human health related to exposed cats or dogs. Accordingly, shelters should intake, manage, and outcome all cats and dogs per standard operating protocols (e.g., healthy animals should be handled per usual protocol, animals with clinical signs of respiratory disease should be handled per usual protocol, etc). These guidelines represent the current state of knowledge around SARS-CoV-2 and dogs and cats and are subject to review and modification. Updated 4/15/2022
The Shelter Medicine Academic Consortium (SMAC) is a group of shelter medicine experts created to develop and disseminate evidence-based recommendations grounded in practical shelter management considerations.