8 Apr 2020

Pets in the lockdown: Your Covid-19 questions answered

5:08 pm on 8 April 2020

As Covid-19 spreads around the world, it can be daunting keeping up with the information. For RNZ, our responsibility is to give you verified, up to the minute, trustworthy information to help you make decisions about your lives and your health. We'll also be asking questions of officials and decision makers about how they're responding to the virus. Our aim is to keep you informed.

The lockdown has only elevated our daughter's quest to get a dog. We have even been debating names. Sadly, getting one isn't possible at the moment but if you have a pet already here's some Covid-19 guidance for you.

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Photo: RNZ

Is it okay to walk my dog while NZ is under COVID-19 restrictions?

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) says if everyone in the household is healthy then, yes, fill your boots. You should only be walking your dog with people from your bubble and always keep the two-metre distance from others. It remains good practice to wash your hands before and after interacting with your animals. You should not be driving to take your dog for a walk. In most cases it should be possible to walk in your neighbourhood.

If someone in the household has Covid-19 then dogs should not be exercised away from your property and cats should be kept indoors. Click here for more useful information on exercising your pet.

In addition, the SPCA has advised people diagnosed with Covid-19 should try to avoid contact with animals including petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, and sharing food.

Could my dog spread Covid-19?

Despite this week's story about a tiger having it, and an earlier one about two dogs in Hong Kong, MPI and the SPCA advise there is no evidence pets are at risk from Covid-19 or that they are spreaders.

However, caution is still very much being urged. Epidemiologist Dr Patricia Priest told RNZ you should not:

  • Let anyone else pat your dog (don't let the goodest boy become the goodest transmission vector)
  • Let your dog interact with anyone else's dog (keep it on a lead).
  • Pat anyone else's dog, cat, guinea pig, rabbit etc.

Again, keep the two metres away from other people when exercising your animal.

Is it possible to adopt an animal at the moment?

SPCA adoption centres are closed though they have been inundated with offers of help. Don't fear, they are continuing to care for the animals as an essential service.

My horse is in a paddock away from our house. Am I allowed to visit it?

MPI says that travel to ensure the health of your animals is allowed. So, this means food, water and whatever else you need to do to meet the requirements of the Animal Welfare Act.

If you need to travel, go in your own vehicle and only with people from your bubble. Do not share grooming kit and tack with people outside your bubble.

If your horse is stabled or grazing on someone's property, then they should be in a position to care for it and you should remain at home.

  • If you have symptoms of the coronavirus, call the NZ Covid-19 Healthline on 0800 358 5453 (+64 9 358 5453 for international SIMs) or call your GP - don't show up at a medical centre

Is it okay to work my horse on the beach?

MPI says no. People are being asked not to ride in order to reduce the pressure on emergency services in case of an accident.

If you do ride you should stay on the property where the horse is kept. Using your horse float to take the animal somewhere else for a ride is a neigh-neigh.

My horse needs new shoes (don't we all). Can a farrier come to help out?

If the treatment is considered essential to maintain the animal's welfare then a farrier can be called. Keep in mind that the New Zealand Farriers Association has advised that the majority of farriers' work can be postponed during the lockdown without compromising animal health.

I have lost my income and don't want to lose my pet as a result. What can I do?

The SPCA says that financial assistance is available to help buy pet food in addition to other family needs. Find out more here via Work and Income.

Can I get treatment for my cat from a vet?

Vets are considered an essential service but they have been told not to operate with a 'business as usual' mindset.

The SPCA says the public has to observe certain precautions when trying to get a vet's help. You have to contact the vet before visiting them or going into a clinic - for an appointment or product. If you are self-isolating or at higher risk from Covid-19 you need to tell the vet - this applies even if someone else is taking the animal in.

The New Zealand Veterinarians Association has more information on its website.

What do I do if I'm worried an animal is being neglected during the lockdown?

It's the same as before. If you're concerned about an animal's welfare phone MPI on 0800 008 333 or your local SPCA.

What's happening with the zoo animals? I'm a big fan of giraffes.

Well, rest easy. Your very elevated friends are in good hands. Zoos are, obviously, closed, but Wellington Zoo had this to say: "The health and safety of our staff, volunteers, visitors and animals is our top priority. We will continue to do all we can to look after our staff and animals. We have plenty of supplies for our animals and essential animal care, nutrition and veterinary staff will continue to provide the excellent care for our animals as always."

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