Covid-19 Update for animal care businesses

Birds, Cats, Covid19, Dogs, Education, Horses, Small animals, Small pets, Tips for Owners

As we find ourselves stepping into the second lockdown in England, many people are becoming confused as to what we can and can’t do with regard to our animal care businesses. The latest guidance and advice have been brought together here so that you can continue with your practice in the safest way possible.

Guidelines for hands-on therapy and practices

The Register of Animal Musculoskeletal Practitioners (RAMP) have recently released their own guidance (03/11/2020) on working with animals based on the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) original and updated guidance. The key aspects are;

  1. Animals with demonstrable pain and welfare issues should be seen, these may include all pathologies.
  2. A pre-visit risk assessment and telephone call is essential. Gain as much information prior to the visit as possible to minimise contact time. If appropriate, would the use of an oral sedative, supplied by the clients’ vet to the client, mitigate risk? Do you have access to a responsible ‘safe’ handler that can attend with you?
  3. No appointments should be made with anyone who has Covid symptoms or who is in close contact with anyone with Covid symptoms. There must be a 14-day quarantine period for them, prior to seeing them. Consider the suitability of wearing a mask to reduce the risk of the practitioner spreading Covid between yards/clients. Consider asking owners/handlers to wear masks to reduce the risk of transmission to the practitioner.
  4. If you have symptoms do not treat, get tested, and await a clear result, prior to seeing any clients.
  5. Animals with owners in the vulnerable categories should not be treated in the normal way. Try to see if any other approach other than face to face can be used.
  6. Small animals should be seen in a clinic setting, (physio or vet) rather than home visits if possible, as cleanliness, disinfection and biosecurity are easier to control. If home visits are necessary, ensure that no other pets/family etc are present. In a clinic setting explore the possibility of treatment without owner present. Risk asses home visits very carefully.
  7. Yard visits- Risk assess individual setups. As a professional, you will be aware of the situations, and risks, at each of your regular yards. Some may be relatively ‘safe’, others less so. The decision to attend a client should be dictated by the risk assessment.
  8. Home/yard visits, ask for gates to be opened and closed for you to minimise touching surfaces. No loose dogs/cats around that could transmit the virus via petting, ensure the animal is ready and waiting for you (ie no putting on headcollars, leads etc and unnecessary handling of owners equipment), carry your own soap and towels to wash between visits and ask for a fresh bucket of warm water or easy access to sink to wash. Accept no refreshments.
  9. Other considerations, can the animal be left tied up with the owner at an appropriate distance? If not, are there any other strategies to improve safety and appropriately handle and restrain the animal? Is this a safe approach for you, the client and the animal?
  10. Is this animal safe to treat with these restrictions in place?
  11. All visits should be risk assessed and the results documented. Including those where treatment is refused and the reasons why, with documented details of the explanation to the client.
  12. Only see regular clients if possible, this reduces the risk to you and the clients and eases the process of risk assessment. Do not ‘poach’ another practitioners’ clients.
  13. For new referrals of non-regular clients have a close liaison with the vet re the risks and set up of the treatment environment, not just the clinical condition.
  14. Payment- attempt to remove the need to handle payments. Request payment by BACS/credit card/PayPal.

“This is not an exhaustive list of all the possible considerations and scenarios but some guidance. Professional judgement and expert opinion should be used at all stages to ensure the practitioners and the client’s safety while also minimising the risks of spreading Covid 19. The professional judgement of the practitioner, based on a thorough risk assessment, should always lead the decision as to whether it is safe to attend and treat an animal. Remember that owners should list practitioners as healthcare workers for the track and trace requirements including QR codes.” You can read their guidelines here.

Guidelines for other pet businesses

The Canine and Feline Sector Group (CFSG) have brought together their latest business guidance and advice for the other sectors of the industry (04/11/2020). They have provided very comprehensive guides covering many sectors in our industry including Boarding, Day Care, Dog Walkers, Groomers, Breeders, Rescues, Shops, Trainers, and Pet Sitters. A summary of the key points found in their guidance is listed here. I strongly recommend that you read the full guidance documents if it covers your sector, links to these can be found below.

“There remains no evidence that pets are implicated in the transmission of Coronavirus to people and infection of the pet is rare, but that there is some risk of virus potentially being carried from person to person on pets and their belongings although scientific assessment is now that such transmission is relatively unlikely. There have been some rare instances where infected owners have passed on infection to their pets but there remains no evidence of onward transmission and the main route of transmission remains person-to-person. However, the risk of transmission between infected clients and business staff remains and the disease status of the client, if known, will assist in risk assessment.”

Dog Trainers – Training of dogs is an important element of their social development. Dog trainers may continue to provide advice on training basis using technology to connect the trainer and client. It may also be possible to run classes by video link. If a trainer can utilise a secure safe outside area to provide training, clients can meet the trainer there providing social distance can be maintained and class sizes are limited to comply with current government guidance (2m should be adhered to where possible). There should be no physical contact between the trainer and client or dog and social distance should be maintained at all times. Indoor training classes are not allowed. Classes conducted outdoors are permitted as long as social distance is maintained between the trainer and clients and between clients from different households.

Dog Walkers – Dog walkers can continue to operate and priority should be given to key workers, and vulnerable people who are unable to make alternative safe arrangements for their dog. Dogs from coronavirus infected or self-isolating households may be walked but if doing so they must be walked after dogs from all other households.

Pet Sitters – Pet sitters may operate providing they can maintain social distancing rules and following the Government guidance on those working in other people’s homes. They should not sit for an infected or self-isolating household.

Dog Groomers – An owner may take a pet to be groomed by appointment if the grooming is necessary for welfare reasons.

Dog and Cat Breeders – In view of the new restrictions potential owners will be unable to visit a litter in person to view a puppy or kitten with their mother in its home environment and so some virtual means of allowing potential purchasers to view is necessary.

Rescue organisations – Animal rescue and rehoming establishments should continue to rehome pets by offering to transport them to the home of adopters providing that a suitable vehicle is available that can be disinfected between each journey. Where this may not be possible and it is considered reasonably necessary for welfare reasons, establishments may allow adopters to collect pets by appointment.

Resources for further information

The RCVS have their full guidance for veterinary professionals available on its website here. This guidance includes new flow charts to help you decide whether or not to carry out a particular of work. It also includes guidance for the following;

The National Association of Veterinary Physiotherapists have released the following guidance in their newsletters that include;

  • Advice for clients and pet owners for when a therapist comes to work with their animal (April 2020)
  • Sharing the British Veterinary Association statement for cat owners
  • Guidance for dog owners during this time

Government Guidance that may also be of interest;

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