KUCHING, April 7: Sarawak Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA) president Datin Dona Drury-Wee emphasised that basic hygiene measures should always be observed when handling and caring for animals, and not only during the Covid-19 outbreak.
“This includes hand-washing before and after being around or handling animals, their food, or supplies, as well as avoiding kissing, licking or sharing food,” she advised in a press statement today.
Although no evidence indicated that pet animals have spread Covid-19 to humans, she stressed that it is still recommended that people infected with the virus but without symptoms limit contact with companion and other animals.
“When possible, people who are sick or under medical attention for Covid-19 should avoid close contact with their pets and have another member of their household care for their animals.
“If they must look after their pets, they should maintain good hygiene practices and wear a face mask if possible. Moreover, animals belonging to owners infected with Covid-19 should be kept indoors or in a confined area as much as possible,” she said.
Drury-Wee was commenting on a statement by the Health Ministry advising pet owners to minimise contact with pets during the Covid-19 outbreak to reduce the possibility of being infected with the virus.
The ministry’s advice came following reports of animals testing positive for the virus including a four-year-old Malayan tiger at the Bronx Zoo in New York City as well as handful of dogs and cats in Hong Kong and Belgium.
Drury-Wee noted that the headlines were causing great fear and uncertainty and in turn also posed a significant threat to companion animal welfare as some owners and members of the public were concerned that pets could spread the virus.
“It is important that Covid-19 does not lead to inappropriate measures being taken against domestic or wild animals which might compromise their welfare and health. Do not keep them in cages 24 hours outdoors, exposed to the sun and rain!” she pointed out.
If pets developed an unexplained illness around a positive patient, Drury-Wee advised not to take the animal to a veterinary clinic unless instructed by authorities to do so.
“If your pet needs veterinary attention after exposure to a Covid-19 patient, call your veterinary clinic before you go to let them know that you are bringing a sick pet that has been exposed to a person with Covid-19 so as to let them prepare an isolation area if you are permitted to go to the clinic,” she emphasised.
She explained that reports so far have shown that companion animals only get mild symptoms which seem to clear up on their own with proper care at home.
“Until we know more about this virus, pet owners should avoid contact with animals they are unfamiliar with and always wash their hands before and after they interact with animals.
“We should continue to care for our pets in a responsible manner, as for some people, they could be their only sane companions during this lockdown period,” she added.
Drury-Wee also urged the public to check their facts with professionals and trusted sources such as World Health Organisation (WHO), World Small Animal Veterinary Association and World Organisation for Animal Health before forwarding information. — DayakDaily