Management of COVID-19 in Animal Shelters

Meeting the Community’s Most Urgent Needs

Macro zoom image of COVID-19 cellFull service operations were reduced at many shelters at the beginning of this pandemic to prepare for anticipated workforce and supply shortages. In order to preserve lifesaving of shelter pets, the National Animal Care and Control Association urged shelters to prioritize emergency services such as “law enforcement assistance, injured or sick stray animals, cruelty and neglect complaints, bite complaints, and dangerous and aggressive dog complaints,” and to suspend less critical activity such as “non-aggressive stray animal pick-up, leash law and licensing complaints, barking and nuisance complaints, trapping and transport of community cats, and conflict mitigation scenarios.” Safety net programs of providing food, supplies, and urgent medical care allowed some pets to remain in their homes, maintaining the human-animal bond, rather than being relinquished to the shelter.

In addition to reducing the shelter population through intake reduction, shelters put out a plea to their communities to provide homes through emergency fostering and adoption, which was met with great success. The silver lining to the COVID-19 cloud is a reimagining of “normal” shelter operations, supporting and empowering foster families to promote their foster pets, leading to adoptions directly from the foster home. Virtual adoptions of those pets remaining in the shelter have led to a quieter, less stressful shelter environment for shelter residents.

The Shelter Medicine Program at the University of Florida continues to monitor the developing situation as animal shelters cope with the COVID-19 pandemic. Experts have weighed in on multiple issues impacting animal sheltering as well as care of personal pets. Sign up for our newsletter for timely topics and check the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) websites for continuing updates.

 Resources for shelters and pet owners the Shelter Medicine Program

Resources from other national organizations

Shelter Operations Resources

American Pets Alive


American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) 

Best Friends

Humane Society of the United States (HSUS)

Maddie’s Fund

National Animal Control Association (NACA)

Shelter Medicine Resources

General Information

American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) 

University of Wisconsin-Madison Shelter Medicine Program

Worms and Germs Blog 

Testing and Response 

Centers for Disease Control (CDC) 

United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) 

Disaster Response and Emergency Sheltering

Centers for Disease Control (CDC) 

National Animal Rescue and Sheltering Coalition (NARSC)