Note: This is a fast moving and complex situation and information changes rapidly. We will keep this blog post updated as best we can with the most up to date information.
Update 31 March 2020
UK: The Scottish SPCA are now reccommending that dogs should now also follow social distancing guidelines.
Update 28 March 2020
Spain: After several people abusing the lockdown conditions by walking fake, toy dogs, walking dogs further from home than normal and owners 'lending' their dogs to neighbours, police have imposed strict new conditions. The main change is that police are restricting owners from walking their dogs too far from home, in most cases obliging people to stay within a few hundred metres of home.
Some people are even trying to take dogs from rescue shelters in the full knowledge they will return them once the lockdown finishes. Fortunately, many shelters realise this and are refusing to release dogs
Update 26 March 2020
UK: Police now making it clear that exercise has to be done from your home - you are not allowed to drive to another location to either exercise or walk your dog.
Update 23 March 2020
UK: Boris Johnson falls into line with the rest of Europe and introduces strict new lockdown conditions to be enforced by police. In common with France, Italy and Spain, people are being told to stay at home and only venture out for essential trips such as buying food & medicine and travelling to and from work if it an absolute necessity. This is how the UK compares to other countries under lockdown.
Australia: Northern Territory, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania – have effectively closed their borders to outside travel, while the ACT has urged all non-essential travel into surrounding NSW to be postponed. Australians to avoid all “non-essential” travel.
USA: More states go into lockdown but restrictions vary from state to state. Here's a good guide to the way each US state is handling the coronavirus crisis.
Update 19 March 2020
France: President Emmanuel Macron has ordered French residents to stay at home except for essential excursions such as going to the doctor, walking the dog, or going for a solitary run, and banned any gatherings. With sport, you have to go alone - group sports are not permitted. Everyone outdoors will have to justify, upon request, their ‘essential’ reason for leaving home. The form you need to download before taking your dog out for a walk is here. Those without a valid reason for being outside will be subject a fine of between 38 and 135 euros.
Despite a case of low-level coronavirus being identified in a dog from Hong Kong, the World Health Organisation has said that there is no evidence that companion animals can be infected with the Covid-19 coronavirus.
However, until we know more about transmission of the coronavirus between humans and animals, best practice for anyone who exhibits symptoms or has been diagnosed with Covid-19 is to limit contact with your own dog and others. So avoid patting, being kissed or licked and touching the eyes, nose and mouth as much as possible. Regularly wash and disinfect your dog’s leash, bed and any other materials come into contact with your dog.
Keep your dog’s routine as close to normal as they are not carriers but be sure to wash your hands well both before and after giving food to your dog. Clean their food bowl regularly and ensure fresh water is put down each day. You shouldn’t share food with your dog.
The Scottish SPCA are now recommending that dogs should follow social distancing guidelines as they could carry the virus on their coat. Scottish SPCA chief superintendent Mike Flynn said there was no evidence to suggest pets are susceptible to the coronavirus "but if someone with the virus sneezes on a dog, the virus can be on its coat the same as any other surface."
The protocol with Covid-19 is new for veterinary clinics, as it is for all of us. If you do have to bring your dog to the vet for any reason, call them first to advise so that they can prepare the staff and treatment areas. Do not bring your dog straight to the clinic. Many vets are making this a mandatory requirement.
Your vet may be able to give you advice over the phone for common concerns. If you do end up making a trip, wash and disinfect your hands before leaving home and on entering the veterinary practice.
Each animal should only be accompanied by one person. In the case of more people being in the waiting room, maintain a distance of one metre between them and you. Also between you and the clinic staff.
You will possibly be asked to come outside of normal working hours so as not to come into contact with other people and dogs. Some practices are limiting entry to one dog and owner at a time.
Visits to animals that need to stay for a period of time, such as after an operation, are often being limited to short periods and again, one person only. If you have tested positive for coronavirus, under no circumstances should you bring your dog to the vet.
There is a group 2 coronavirus related to the bovine coronavirus that can cause coughing, sneezing, and nasal discharge in dogs. This is commonly known as ‘kennel cough’ and dogs of all ages and breeds are susceptible to infection.
Canine Respiratory Coronavirus commonly affects dogs in the UK, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Japan and is present in the US and Canada. It is especially common amongst dogs that are in close proximity such as in a rescue centre. There is no evidence that CRCoV can infect other animal species or people.
As stated above, the WHO believe there is currently no scientific evidence that dogs can either carry or transmit Covid-19. Although a canine coronavirus does exist, it is not Covid-19.
If you are diagnosed with coronavirus and need to self-isolate, you will need to stay indoors. You should not take your dog for a walk. It is recommended that you wear a face mask yourself but that you do not fit your dog with one. This will only cause them stress.
The best option in this case would be to find another (healthy) family member or neighbour that can take care of your dog while you recover. Ask them to buy new food and drinking bowls, do not take the ones from your house as they may be infected.
Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds each time before and after touching your dog. If you have a garden, let your dog out as necessary so he can do his pees and poos. If not, check first on your local authority website to see if local parks/green areas are open and ask a friend, relative or neighbour if they will bring your dog down. Be sure to give them poo bags to bring and wash everyone’s hands before and after the trip.
Coronavirus regulations on walking your dog vary from country to country with the US and UK currently being more relaxed and southern European countries like Italy and Spain being much more strict.
Even if you are in the UK or US, good practice may be to now start observing some of the stricter European requirements to stop the spread of Covid-19 coronavirus and keep all of our pets safe.
At the time of writing, residents in the UK have been told to avoid bars, restaurants and cafes where possible so this will curtail the activities of people who would normally go out with their dog to enjoy a coffee or a meal. However, under a mass coronavirus isolation plan announced by the government, elderly people over 70 will be asked to self-isolate for a period of four months, at a time yet to be determined. Although full guidance has yet to be published, over 70s with no symptoms will still be allowed outside to walk their dog.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued some strict guidance on dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. This includes preventing people from entering your home who do not have an essential need to be there, including dog walkers. But you can accept a food delivery or sign for a package, whether you are in quarantine or self-isolation.
Other recommendations are to avoid public places and not to take your dog on a hike in the woods but it’s fine to walk your dog in your local area.
On March 17, Justin Trudeau announced that entry to Canada would be denied to people who are not Canadian citizens, or permanent residents with exceptions for air crews, diplomats, immediate family members of Canadian citizens, and at this time, US citizens. Current advice is if you need to walk your dog, use your backyard only.
As of midnight on Saturday 14 March 2020, the whole of Spain has been in a state of lockdown, although each of Spain’s 17 autonomous communities has a slight degree of flexibility in how strictly they apply the rules, mainly dependent on how populated they are.
Throughout the country, people who have not been diagnosed with Covid-19 may leave the house for ‘essential reasons’ such as supplies of food and medicine but only one person per household at any one time. Supplies of food includes pet food of course so some pet shops are staying open.
President Sanchez has been clear on several occasions: the state of emergency still allows you to walk your dog. You must keep your dog on a leash, maintain social distancing, not allow your dog to pull you towards other dogs and not stop to chat to other dog owners as this could result in a fine. Only one person may walk their dog at any time.
If you live in Madrid, the Ayuntamiento (city hall) has closed all public parks and gardens so you won’t be able to enter with your dog. Some beaches have also been closed to everyone, irrespective of whether they have a dog or not.
In an act of total irresponsibility and lack of care for others, some people are ‘lending’ their dogs to friends, neighbours and complete strangers so that they are able to legitimately be outdoors.
In Italy, the Ente Nazionale Protezione Animali (National Board For Animal Protection) has clarified that you can take your dog for a walk as ‘taking your dog for a walk is necessary for his or her well-being and ours too’.
The government-imposed restrictions do not prohibit the movement of people and animals within the same municipal area but you must be careful to not go beyond it. In this case, if stopped by the police, you risk a penalty, since this is not one of the three reasons of proven need established by the government (medical, working or mandatory needs).
On paper, the restrictions are clear: residents must avoid “every movement” outside their immediate areas except for work, health care or activities of “strict necessity” such as grocery shopping. Italians have been told to carry paperwork with them at all times with details of where they are going and why. Police are checking documents in many public areas and ordering people to return home with a hefty fine if their paperwork does not tally with their whereabouts.
As of midnight on 16 March 2020, France introduced the same lockdown restrictions as in other European countries. For dog walkers, this means keeping your dog on a leash, maintaining social distancing, not allowing your dog to pull you towards other dogs and not stopping to chat to other dog owners as this could result in a fine. Only one person may walk their dog at any time.
Anyone leaving their home must complete a legal document downloaded from the interior ministry’s website, or written out by hand, declaring on their honour that they are out for one of the permitted reasons.
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