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COVID-19 and Pets: What you need to know

What is COVID-19?

This is a newly identified virus in the corona virus group. It is closely related to a couple of other corona virus outbreaks we have seen recently; namely SARS and MERS. COVID-19 is more distantly related to the other corona viruses most familiar to pet owners. Those are the virus which causes Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP) and the Canine Coronavirus (CCoV) which causes digestive tract disease in dogs.

Can pets be infected with corona virus?

Most recent research has identified COVID-19 infections in cats, ferrets and tigers at the Bronx Zoo. At this time, it is not thought that infected cats are a significant risk factor for human disease while the tigers at the zoo appear to have been infected from a pre-symptomatic caretaker. Dogs have not been identified as infected or carriers of the virus. It is very early in the disease cycle and more research is needed to understand this virus.

Can people become infected from dogs and cats?

At this time there is no evidence that dogs can transmit this disease to humans. Although cats can be infected the risk from house cats seems to be very low. It is possible that pets, as with door handles and other objects, can act as fomites and carry virus on their fur for short periods of time but the pet would need to have had very close contact with an infected person for this to occur. Person to person contact is the most significant way the virus is spread in society.

If my pet shows signs of illness, such as coughing, sneezing and fever should I have it tested?

Current expert understanding is that COVID-19 is primarily transmitted person-to-person. This supports a recommendation against testing of domestic animals, except by official order. If domestic animals, including dogs or cats, present with respiratory or gastrointestinal signs, veterinarians should test for the more common pathogens and conditions.

What about COVID-19 and bowel movements?

Experimental exposure to corona virus in cats has identified virus in feces but the data is limited at this time. Owners should use caution and wear gloves when cleaning the litterbox and avoid any direct contact with the litterbox contents. Remember you can be exposed to other pathogens, such as toxoplasmosis, when cleaning the box.

Can I give my dog a bath?

Generally speaking, yes. There is no reason to think that domestic animals, including pets, in the United States might be a source of infection with the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

Can my dog play with other dogs?

If you are referring to dog parks and such... No, YOU are supposed to be staying home and keeping a safe, social distance from other people.

What should I do with my pet if I have been potentially exposed to this corona virus or have become ill with symptoms (fever, cough, shortness of breath)?

Let’s look at the first situation. At this point there is no real concern for your pet, but you should consider wearing a face mask and avoiding direct contact with your pet. The same precautions you would have around other people. But, as a responsible pet owner, you should have a back- up plan for animal care should you become ill yourself; enough pet food and someone you can count on to provide care if you become too ill yourself.

In the event you become physically ill with COVID-19 symptoms, this is when your back-up plan takes effect. A trusted family member or friend should be called upon to render assistance. While avoiding direct contact with the pet for the first few days, this person should provide board and care for your pet. And remember however, that the probability of anyone contracting the virus from any pet is absolutely minimal.

For a much more detailed summary of current COVID-19 knowledge visit the AVMA

Lifesaving Services Will Still be Handled During Covid-19

Animal Services is closing its shelters to the public starting on April 2 due to an abundance of caution during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Some services will be modified, but there are still critical needs we have, including adoptions and fostering pets, said Animal Services Director Julie Bank.

“Although the shelters are closed to the public, we’re still at the shelter caring and providing for the animals and our animal control officers are in the field protecting our constituents and animals,” Bank said. “We have already been successful in placing more than 1,660 animals in March and we are still coordinating adoptions, fostering and pet reunions, but these services will have a unique look.”

That look will resemble an Uber-like service or something resembling Instacart, she said. Would-be adopters and fosters can search online for a pet that meets their family’s needs and team members will coordinate a curbside pickup or schedule a delivery to the adopter’s home if feasible, Bank said.

“We’ll still do our official adoption process and proper vetting,” Bank said. “But with strong social distancing still practiced. Also, if the pet does not make for a perfect fit, there is no pressure on the adopter to complete the application.” And if that’s not exciting enough, all animals for adoption are free of charge during this time.

The foster application can be found here: https://www.rcdas.org/index.php/volunteer/foster-care

Adopters can call 951-358-7387 or e-mail the pet animal ID number to this email: 

We are also beefing up our call center services to provide information on ways to support you as a pet owner and to provide more information on ways you can help as a concerned resident. Animal control officers will continue to respond to bite and cruelty investigations, as well as any public health, safety and welfare issues.

For updated information on our services please visit www.rcdas.org.

Adoptions Allowed – and Have Spiked During COVID-19

Animal Services is limiting the number of guests inside its lobbies to five people during the COVID-19 pandemic. Visitors to the adoption bungalows are kept to less than 10, including staff members. Those mandates started earlier this week.

Adoptions are still allowed, but employees are reminding visitors that they must stay 6 feet from each other as they line up outside. Licensing officers are politely enforcing the rule – and blue, painter’s tape markers have been placed on the concrete as visual reminders of proper social distancing.

Riverside County Animal Services’ employees are described as essential workers and remain at the shelter to care for the roughly 600 pets in the county’s four shelters that need food, clean kennels and proper veterinary care.

“We are practicing social distancing as best we can in the shelter environment, but we must remain here to care for people’s stray pets and those animals eagerly waiting for an adopter,” said Director Dr. Allan Drusys, who is also the county’s chief veterinarian. “I couldn’t be prouder that our team members are showing up in force to remain as the unsung heroes for other people’s pets.”

Dr. Drusys added that officers continued their request for service. Also, he said an interesting phenomenon is transpiring during the local and state mandates during the coronavirus era: adoptions appear to be spiking.

“We’ve noticed many visitors coming to adopt,” Dr. Drusys said. “Although we cannot directly say COVID-19 is causing this, it does make some sense considering that so many people are not at work and so many school-aged children are at home. It appears families are flocking into our shelters to find that perfect comfort pet.”

As one example, on St. Patrick’s Day, 90 dogs and 11 cats were adopted, transferred to rescue partners or returned to their owner, which is much more than normal for a weekday in March.

“We are doing everything we can to keep employees and our visitors safe,” said Jackie Schart, an animal services chief who oversees shelter operations. “I have been happily blown away at how bustling our adoptions are during these coronavirus times.”

Earlier today, Riverside resident Amy Hutto, showed up early hoping she could adopt a 4-month-old Maltese. She wasn’t alone. Four other families had their sights set on the same pooch. Ms. Hutto, an ultrasound technician whose husband is serving overseas with the U.S. Navy, was the winner of lottery. “I needed some company,” she said.

FRIDAY, MARCH 20, 2020

Shelter Services During COVID-19 Animal Shelters Remain Open During Health Crisis

All Riverside County, Department of Animal Services will remain open during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Riverside County Department of Animal Services is acting diligently to protect human and animal health during the COVID-19 crisis. Currently, Riverside County animal shelters are open for regular business hours. However, in response to recent developments, we request that anyone requiring services first consult the Department’s website and conduct business via the website or through the call center at (951) 358-7387.

Public Access to Animal Shelters

At this time, public access to our animal shelter facilities is being limited to 5 persons at a time for front counter lobbies and adoption areas. Social distancing of at least 6 feet is required. Understand that wait times may increase as we strive to protect our community’s health and safety. Thank you in advance for your patience as we all work together through these challenging times

Activities that can be conducted remotely include:

Dog licensing

Can be completed online. https://www.rcdas.org/index.php/services/dog-licensing


Cannot be paid online, however, please call (951) 358-7387 and speak to a representative to clear a citation.

Lost pets

If you are looking for a lost pet, please browse the lost and found pets section of the website before coming into the shelter. Come prepared with the animal ID number of any pets you think might be yours. https://www.rcdas.org/index.php/lost-pets

Pet Adoptions

Please see our animals available for adoption online. Come prepared with animal ID numbers for the pets you are interested in adopting. https://www.rcdas.org/index.php/adopt

Stay informed regarding COVID-19 in Riverside County here: https://www.rivcoph.org/coronavirus

Vaccination Clinics Suspended During COVID-19

Animal Shelters Remain Open During Health Crisis Director: Late Fees for Renewals on Hold Starting April 1

Animal Services is suspending its vaccination clinics at its Jurupa Valley shelter location during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The “shot clinics,” as they are commonly called, offer low-cost rabies vaccinations for dog owners. Animal Services offers the clinics on the first Wednesday evening of the month and the third Saturday morning of each month. (The next dates were scheduled for March 21 and April 1.)

They’re so popular that upwards of 300 people show up for them. But considering the federal and local restrictions on large gatherings, Animal Services Director Dr. Allan Drusys announced today that the clinics should be suspended until further notice.

“We want to make sure we are adhering to our Board of Supervisors’ mandates and respecting our public health officer’s declarations, too,” said Dr. Drusys, who is also the county’s chief veterinarian. “We had already been discussing internally what operations we can continue to do and what we need to suspend.”

(Stay informed regarding COVID-19 in Riverside County here: https://www.rivcoph.org/coronavirus.)

Since so many people need to update their dog’s rabies vaccination to obtain a new dog license – and rely on the county’s low-cost vaccinations to make that happen, Dr. Drusys announced he will be suspending late fees for license renewals during the health crisis for any owner whose dog license is due on or after April 1.

For now, the county’s shelters in Blythe, Jurupa Valley, San Jacinto and Thousand Palms remain open for business, per usual. But Dr. Drusys is asking the public to visit the shelters only for the most necessary of reasons, such as showing up to redeem their lost pet.

“We know during this crisis our pets provide great comfort to us, so we want to make sure we’re allowing for reunions to continue as normal,” Dr. Drusys said. “But if people do not have an immediate need to visit us, they should also follow our public health officer’s strong messages of social distancing.”

Dr. Drusys recommended patrons to renew their dog license conveniently through the mail or by using the online service provided here: https://www.rcdas.org/index.php/licensing


Contact a Shelter

Western Riverside: (951) 358-7387 (PETS)
San Jacinto: (951) 358-7387
Coachella Valley: (760) 343-3644
Blythe: (760) 921-7857

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