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How Should Sanctuaries Respond To COVID-19? (as of March 11, 2020)

A human washing their hands at a sink.
Keep washing those hands!

Other COVID-19 Sanctuary Resources:

Financial Measures For Animal Sanctuaries In The United States Impacted By The COVID-19 Outbreak (As Of April 7, 2020)

More Questions And Answers About COVID-19 For Animal Sanctuaries

What Can Animal Sanctuaries Do During The COVID-19 Outbreak?

Digital Tools Your Animal Sanctuary Can Utilize During The COVID-19 Outbreak

Barn Sanctuary’s COVID-19 Resources For Sanctuaries

 

With all the uncertainty around COVID-19, many people are wondering what the current outbreak means for their residents and staff. Currently, unless you are in an area where the government has placed restrictions on travel or public gatherings, it can be difficult to know exactly what steps should be taken right now. For those of us in the United States, many experts suggest that they will have a better grasp on the situation in the coming weeks, but what about in the meantime? Given the lack of (and sometimes conflicting) information about what humans should be doing to keep themselves safe and prevent the spread of the disease, it is especially difficult to know what steps, if any, the sanctuary community should be taking to protect residents. And with tour season approaching for many places, people are wondering what they should do.

At The Open Sanctuary Project, we like to err on the side of caution when it comes to resident and human safety. The American Veterinary Medicine Association (AVMA) states that experts are not currently concerned about spread of COVID-19 from humans to animals or visa versa. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) also state that “there is no evidence that companion animals, including pets, can spread COVID-19”, but they do recommend that individuals with COVID-19 limit interactions with animals whenever possible. Given the fact that sanctuary residents are counting on the humans who care for them to keep them safe, here’s what we’d do if The Open Sanctuary Project had a physical sanctuary:

  • Postpone, or temporarily cancel public tours. If there is a special tour coming up that would have a negative impact on your organization if canceled, then you’ll have to figure out what makes the most sense for your organization, but limiting the number of people on your property is probably your safest bet.
  • Limit non-essential volunteers temporarily.
  • Encourage staff and volunteers to stay home if they are not feeling well or have other reasons to self-quarantine. With a small care staff, we know it can be very difficult if even one person is out, but you do not want to put your staff at risk and this is in line with the CDC’s recommendation to keep those with COVID-19 away from animals when possible. For healthy staff who can do their job from home, we’d recommend that they do so in the short term.
  • Come up with (or update) an emergency plan for all essential tasks and duties. In the event that members of your staff are out, either because they are ill or because family members are ill or their child’s school has closed, you will need to have a plan to make sure the animals get what they need. It would be a good idea to make sure pertinent records and protocols are up-to-date so that if less experienced caregivers, staff from other departments, or volunteers need to step in, things are ready for them to do so as easily and efficiently as possible.
  • Consider whether stocking up on essential supplies and medications is right for your organization.

While not specific to sanctuaries, the CDC does offer guidelines for workplaces regarding COVID-19 and preventing its spread. While keeping sanctuary humans safe should be reason enough to take preventative measures, also think about how your residents will be impacted if the caregiving staff all get sick at the same time. Be sure to stay up-to-date with the latest news regarding COVID-19 in your area, as the situation changes daily. It’s frustrating not to know exactly what to do, but when it comes to the well-being of our residents, it seems prudent to play it safe. While it may be inconvenient to postpone tours and later have it seem like it was for nothing, it beats the alternative of realizing in two weeks that we should have been limiting visitors and non-essential volunteers.

We will do our best to keep this resource updated as more is learned of COVID-19 and how it may pertain to sanctuary operation!

Updated on August 3, 2020

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