COVID-19 and animal welfare

Transmission of COVID-19

The current spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) is due to transmission between people.

COVID-19 has not been reported in livestock, domestic animals or wildlife in Australia.

Several animal species have been infected with COVID-19 overseas, with most being in close contact with a person infected with COVID-19. However, the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) advises there is no evidence of companion animals spreading COVID-19 to people.

Worldwide, we are still learning about COVID-19 and further studies are needed to understand if and how different animals could be affected by the virus.

Diagnostic testing and surveillance for COVID-19 in animals in Australia is not recommended. The current priority remains on human health as the known form of transmission. Diagnostic testing of animals is only recommended on the advice of human and animal health authorities. Veterinarians who believe an animal should be tested should contact Biosecurity Queensland, who will work with human health authorities to decide whether samples should be collected and tested.

For more information, visit the Australian Government Animal Health Committee website.

Animal owners should always use good hygiene practices, including washing their hands before and after touching animals, food or equipment. Producers are encouraged to implement a biosecurity plan if they don't already have one in place.

For more information about COVID-19 and domestic animals, visit the Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and the World Organisation for Animal Health.

The COVID-19 outbreak in people is different to the canine enteric coronavirus that only infects dogs.

Caring for animal welfare during COVID-19 response

After your health and the health of your family, the welfare of your animals is paramount.

As an animal owner, it's important that you provide for the welfare of your animals during COVID-19, but you need to do so in a way that adheres to advice and restrictions in place to protect human health.

Some examples of necessary care of animals include:

  • purchase of food or medication for your animals
  • to feed or maintain the welfare of animals in your care
  • ensuring a sick or injured animal receives veterinary attention
  • walking your dog as long as you abide by social distancing rules (this is not possible for people in quarantine).

Wildlife carers (paid or volunteer) may also continue to collect sick or injured wildlife if necessary.

You have a duty of care for your animals including ensuring they receive adequate feed, care and treatment. Having a plan in place to ensure the welfare of your animals may also provide you with peace of mind.

Develop a plan

To ensure the welfare of your animals (whether livestock, pets, or exhibited animals) during the COVID-19 pandemic, you should develop a plan for how you will meet your animals' needs in the event that you or other people who care for your animals become sick, or restrictions make it difficult to maintain existing arrangements to support your animals. Having a plan will help you look after yourself and your animals during the COVID-19 pandemic.

You will need to review and update your plan as the situation changes.

The plan should cover:

  • basic feed and care arrangements for your animals
  • how you will be able to secure sufficient feed to get you through a possible self-isolation period
  • who will look after your animals if you become sick and can no longer care for them appropriately
  • contact details for your local veterinarian and emergency veterinary clinic
  • how to secure any medications that are required for your animals.

Work with your veterinarian if your animals require critical ongoing or long term medication. Be mindful that veterinary clinics may also be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and operating at a different level of service to normal (e.g. social distancing requirements, services provided). Your veterinarian will be able to advise you of alternatives if they are not in a position to see or treat your animal to ensure the continuity of veterinary care.

If you are sick it is always best to avoid contact with animals as a general precaution.

Read the Australian Veterinary Association's information for animal owners and veterinarians.

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