Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): advice for animal owners

Advice to owners of pets, companion animals and livestock who may be required to self-isolate as part of government advice on coronavirus (COVID-19).

Published:
14 Apr 2020
Coronavirus (COVID-19): advice for animal owners

The following advice provides information for livestock keepers and those with pets on maintaining the health and welfare of their animals during the coronavirus pandemic.

There is limited evidence that animals, such as dogs and cats, can be infected with COVID-19, and no evidence that livestock can be infected, or of animals being involved in the transmission of the virus to humans. 

In line with general advice, you should wash your hands regularly with soap, including before and after contact with animals and animal products. You should avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth until hands have been thoroughly washed.

Animal owners in self-isolating households

If you are self-isolating you should ensure that all animals you are responsible for continue to be cared for.

Where possible, you should make arrangements in advance with friends, family or neighbours, which can be put in place if the need arises.

There is limited evidence of companion or other animals becoming sick with COVID-19, and currently there is no evidence that they play a significant role in this human disease.

It is recommended that those who have COVID-19, or are displaying symptoms, adopt hygiene measures when handling their pets. 

Dog walking and social distancing

Advice if you do not have symptoms of coronavirus

It is accepted that dogs may need to be taken out more than once a day if you don’t have access to a garden or other area for your dog to toilet.

You must:

  • follow the guidance on social distancing so that you do not come within 2 metres of people not part of your household
  • keep your dog on a lead if necessary to avoid coming into contact with other people or dogs
  • wash your hands when you return home

Advice if you are self-isolating or in the extremely vulnerable group

If you are self-isolating or in the extremely vulnerable (shielding) group, you should not walk your dog outside. Instead, you should ask someone outside your household to walk your dog for you.

The person who walks your dog should avoid coming into your home, and ensure that dogs are kept on a lead to avoid contact with other people and dogs.

Advice if you are walking dogs or caring for pets for someone not able to

You may leave your house to walk a dog for someone who is unable to leave their house because they are self-isolating or being shielded.

You should avoid going into their home and remember to wash your hands before and after contact with animals. 

Ensure that dogs are kept on a lead to avoid contact with other people and dogs.

Where practical, pets should be cared for away from the person’s home for the isolation period to avoid repeat visits. 

Professional dog walkers

It is acceptable for a dog walker to continue working, provided the guidance on social distancing can be adhered to. This would include:

  • remaining at least 2 metres from the owner at pick up and drop off; and from other walkers when out
  • practicing good hygiene at all times, with regular handwashing both before and after contact
  • dogs from infected households being kept on a lead to avoid contact with other walkers or their dogs, and you may need to review walking groups of dogs together to achieve this

If you are self-isolating and need help caring for animals

If you are too unwell to care for your animals and do not have anyone nearby who can help, for further advice and support please phone:

Taking your pet to the vet

Vets will continue to provide emergency services. You should contact your vet before travelling to check that a visit is essential and their arrangements for social distancing at the surgery.

Boarding kennels and catteries

Boarding kennels and catteries can provide a valuable service, caring for pets of essential workers and those who become seriously ill and have no-one else to look after their pet.

They may remain open for these purposes, if they follow the guidance on social distancing for their staff and owners when animals arrive or are collected.

Travel

Travelling to care for animals such as horses

You may travel to meet basic animal welfare needs, for example to feed horses in stables. When doing so, you must follow social distancing guidance so you don’t come within two metres of people who are not part of your household.

Remember to wash your hands before and after returning.

If possible, try to minimise the number of people who need to visit each day by sharing the care of animals at stables etc.

Farm animals and livestock

The role of local authorities in farm animal welfare during the COVID-19 outbreak

Local authority staff are well placed to support the farming industry in these difficult times, due to the obvious advantage of local knowledge. 

In the event of illness or isolation having a detrimental impact on a business, a local solution e.g. neighbours notified and help targeted via industry groups such as RSABI, NFUS, SAC is generally the best. Local authority Animal Health and Welfare staff often know the individuals involved, which can speed up response and action to correct any animal welfare concerns.

Livestock

On-farm welfare problems will only result in a visit from the local authority (almost certainly with APHA staff) in the case of serious welfare difficulties. Ongoing welfare issues will be addressed (in the main) through multi-agency agreement and non-face-to-face interaction with the farmer.

During the current lock-down, elderly and vulnerable farmers may be isolated from outside contact, from contract assistance and from the monitoring and assistance of friends and family. With good local knowledge of the situation, local friends, relatives, or neighbours can assist the livestock holder if necessary (compliant with Scottish Government social distancing guidelines for minimising the risk of transmission of COVID-19) to improve animal welfare.

It may be appropriate to introduce public health and/or social work support for vulnerable farmers, and this can and will be done subject to the current (and updated) guidelines.

Contact with the local authority Animal Health and Welfare Service will be made by normal communication channels.

It may be of assistance to farmers encountering difficulties to refer to the Farm Advisory Service (FAS) via https://www.fas.scot/publication/farm-emergency-plan/.

During the current lock-down, elderly and vulnerable farmers may be isolated from outside contact, from contract assistance and from the monitoring and assistance of friends and family. With good local knowledge of the situation, local friends, relatives, or neighbours can assist the livestock holder if necessary (compliant with Scottish Government social distancing guidelines for minimising the risk of transmission of COVID-19) to improve animal welfare.

Lantra Scotland Skills Matching Service

Lantra Scotland have launched a new Skills Matching Service to respond to the urgent need for skilled workers and volunteers in the land-based industries and animal welfare sector. 

If anyone needs help with animal welfare work, or if people are struggling to look after their animals due to ill health or the current COVID-19 restrictions they can visit Lantra Scotland’s website to register their details. Individuals can also register if they wish to offer their labour, skills and knowledge to others.

They can also phone Lantra Scotland on 01738 310164 or email SMS@lantra.co.uk

Rights of Access for members of the Public

Should you have concerns about accessing recreational areas, utilising by-ways and rights of way, the local authority will be able to advise you in respect of any closures and alternative routes. This will be via General Enquiries to the officers responsible for rights of way and public access under the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003.

Rights of responsible access to most land in Scotland, including paths, continue to apply during COVID-19. It is important to emphasise that, as always, these rights depend on responsible behaviour, both by the public and land managers. This is particularly important at this time when many people are using new and unfamiliar local areas for daily outdoor exercise. This is also an important time of year for farmers and other land managers, in particular, because lambing is taking place and many fields will contain young livestock and newly planted crops. It is therefore essential to comply with the Scottish Outdoor Access Code.

Please read access to the outdoors during the current coronavirus outbreak: guidance for the public and land managers.

Outdoor access contacts.

Please read the ministerial statement on access rights during COVID-19.

Equine owners

If a journey is part of a commercial business and is essential for that business it can take place, provided social distancing rules are adhered to.

Journeys in connection with hobbies etc. should not take place, unless essential for animal welfare reasons.  For example to visit the vet.

Further useful information including an equine care plan is available on the British Horse Society website.

General precautions to take with live animals or animal products

General hygiene measures should be applied, including regular handwashing with soap and water after touching animals and animal products.

Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth until your hands have been thoroughly washed.

As per general good food safety practices, raw meat and dairy products should be handled with care. Meat from healthy livestock that is cooked thoroughly remains safe to eat.