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SPCA, public health officials offer advice on your pet and Covid-19

Margie Manning

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Jack the Cat owns the house St. Pete Catalyst reporter Margie Manning lives in.

Animals that test positive for Covid-19 don’t appear to pose a risk to most humans at this time, a veterinarian with the SPCA Tampa Bay says.

Still, people who have been confirmed to have the coronavirus should limit interaction with their pets as a precautionary measure, Dr. Rizal Lopez, director of the SPCA’s spay/neuter program, tells the St. Pete Catalyst.

Since the pandemic started, veterinarians have been keeping a close eye on how Covid-19 might impact species other than humans, said Lopez, who has been consulting with the SPCA’s senior leadership on daily Covid-19 protocols. Veterinarians are relying heavily on sources such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has a webpage about animals and coronavirus disease, and the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Over the weekend, the U.S. Department of Agriculture confirmed the virus that causes Covid-19 in humans had infected a tiger at a zoo in New York, likely as a result of being exposed to a zoo employee, the USDA said in a news release.

Earlier, there were a couple of dogs in Hong Kong that tested positive as did a cat in Belgium, Lopez said, but they also appear to have come in contact with humans who were ill.

“The good news is that currently they do not believe these animals present any risk to humans. So although the animals have tested positive, it doesn’t appear they are shedding in any way that would risk the human population,” Lopez said.

The CDC advises the people who are not sick and have pets just go about their normal life, but people who do have Covid-19 should take precautions. Public health officials don’t want pets to unwittingly act as fomites or transmitters of the disease, Lopez said.

“Although we really don’t believe animals can act as fomites, everyone is still learning about this, so out of an abundance of caution the CDC is saying that confirmed positive people should limit their interaction with their own pets,” Lopez said. “They should try to have another family member manage them and limit their own contact with them.”

That includes  petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, and sharing food with your pet if you are sick with Covid-19, according to the CDC.

ZooTampa currently does not have any animals showing signs of respiratory illness, said Sandra Torres, a spokeswoman for the zoo. She also sent a statement, describing the actions the zoo is taking:

“While ZooTampa remains temporarily closed, we continue to proactively take all necessary actions to provide a safe environment for our employees and animals. We have stringent protocols in place that exceed the recommended guidelines set by the Centers of Disease Control. Since the beginning of March, our animal caregivers have been wearing personal protection equipment around many of our mammal species. Additionally, our team is maintaining a 6-foot distance from presumed susceptible species whenever possible.

“Our state-of-the-art Catherine Lowry Straz Animal Hospital remains fully staffed with a team of veterinary professionals that are continuously monitoring our animals’ health. We currently do not have any animals showing any signs of respiratory illness.

“The well-being of our employees and animals will continue to be our foremost priority. “

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