But Pets Don’t Get COVID-19? Why Animal Shelters Need Us Now More Than Ever

By Rory Adams

Rory Adams | Kelly Duer | March 20th, 2020

According to the Center for Disease Prevention and Control’s most recent update, “There is no evidence that companion animals including dogs and cats can spread COVID-19.” So, if pets can't get or give us the virus, why are animal shelters asking for help?

Government shutdowns could and in many places are forcing animal shelters to curb their hours, close their doors to the public entirely, and operate with limited or restricted staff and volunteers. This pandemic may lead to a cascade of consequences for pets at local animal shelters and rescues, including euthanizing savable animals due to a lack of space.

Your local animal shelters and rescues may be taking a proactive approach with COVID-19, reducing adoption fees, asking for foster caregivers and supply donations.

See our infographic showing a normal animal sheltering flow, in comparison to the ideal pandemic flow.

In Part 1 of this blog series, we’ll discuss some of the top risks associated with COVID-19 and animals in the care of shelters. Part 2 of this blog will discuss proactive approaches your community can take to maintain lifesaving operations in your community.

1. Decreases in adoptions.

Shelters predictably experience declines in adoptions when times are uncertain. In the worst-case scenario, shelters close to the public, and adoption is taken off the table as a lifesaving option.

See our adoption protocol.

2. Decreased ability to transfer pets to rescue.

Many rescues and private shelters have already closed or begun restricting intake due to a decrease in adoptions and uncertainty about the future. Organizations still open to rescue may be having trouble finding transport.

More information on transport protocol.

3. Volunteer restrictions.

Many animal shelters rely on volunteer support for everything from walking dogs to doing laundry to processing adoptions. The inability to have volunteers in the building could cripple some organizations, resulting in a lack of enrichment for pets, delays in meal preparations and other problems.

See information on emergency use of volunteers.

4. Decreases in the redemption of lost and missing pets.

When an animal shelter closes to the public, the community may not have the ability or understanding to redeem their lost or missing pets, increasing the shelter’s population.

See information on lost/found pet protocol.

5. Staff shortages.

If staff members become ill or need to miss work to care for loved ones, who will be there to care for the pets?

Click here for more info.

6. The need to continue to take in pets.

Although many organizations are making an effort to slow their intake of pets, municipal shelters can’t turn away pets in urgent need. These include stray pets who are injured or are acting aggressively and the pets whose owners are hospitalized or dealing with similar emergent life events.

More information on intake prevention protocols.

7. Pets at-risk for space reasons.

The above factors could combine to create the perfect storm of conditions that lead to full shelters, hopelessness and the idea that death is the only solution.

More information can be found here.

8. Loss of momentum.

Animal welfare is changing rapidly and shelters have been saving more pets than ever. What could losing this momentum mean? Do we want to find out?

More information on grassroots lifesaving for citizens.


What is the best thing you can do to help shelter pets? Open your home to a pet that needs fostering. Caring for a pet at your home will open that pet’s kennel at the shelter so another pet’s life can be saved. Whether you are a staff member, volunteer, or advocate, take a pet home, as soon as you can!

If you aren’t sure where you’re needed, visit 911fosterpets.com and sign up to be notified when your local organizations need foster caregivers. Their search page allows you to search for pets needing foster in your area.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this series, which will detail the steps organizations can take to minimize these risks.


This is a critical time for animal shelters. Please read the entire American Pets Alive! COVID-19 Animal Shelter Preparedness Guide for a complete set of protocols to maintain lifesaving while protecting the health of staff and volunteers and follow American Pets Alive! on social media for up-to-the-minute updates and information.


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