COVID-19: Animal movements and care


Last updated: 08 Jul 2020 1:31pm

There have been no reports of the SARS CoV-2 virus infection in pets, livestock or wildlife in Australia.

The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) advises that internationally, there is currently no evidence to suggest that animals infected by humans are playing a role in the spread of COVID-19. The current spread of COVID-19 is driven by human to human transmission.

The governments of Australia and NSW have robust legislative programs in place to regulate and monitor wildlife trade and harvesting.

Under the Public Health (COVID-19 Restrictions on Gathering and Movement) Order (No 4) 2020 (the order) people are free to leave their homes, including for the purposes of transporting their animals. However, certain venues remain closed,  others may only be open under specific conditions and there are limits on the number of people that can gather at these places.

Animal Health Australia has a variety of information available to assist animal owners deal with COVID-19.

The Federal Government’s Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment has information on COVID-19 and domestic animals and Wildlife Health Australia has information about COVID-19 and wildlife.

Can I infect the animals I care for, or be infected by them?

The current spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for COVID-19 is a result of human to human transmission.

A very small number of cases involving spill-over to animals, from people infected with COVID-19, have been reported. The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) advises that currently there is no evidence to suggest that animals infected with SARS CoV-2 from humans play a role in the transmission of the virus.

Cats (domestic and large cats), mink and dogs have tested positive for SARS CoV-2 in the field setting following contact with humans known or suspected to be infected with SARS CoV-2. Although several animal species have been infected with SARS CoV-2, these infections are not a driver of the COVID-19 pandemic - human to human transmission is and therefore, there is no justification in taking measures against animals which may compromise their welfare. There have been no reports of the SARS CoV-2 virus infection in pets, livestock or wildlife in Australia.

Current advice concerning managing the risks associated with animals in mass care or group settings, such as animal shelters, boarding facilities, zoos, and research facilities, where their exposure history to people with COVID-19 is unknown, is available here Animals in Mass Care & Group Settings Advice Summary (PDF, 709.83 KB).

When handling and caring for animals, basic hygiene measures should always be implemented. 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.

More information can be found by visiting the OIE website.

Should I test my pet for COVID-19? NO, Animal Health Committee does not recommend that companion animals be routinely tested for COVID-19.  Can pets transmit COVID-19 to people? The current spread of COVID-19 is driven by human to human transmission. Currently there is no evidence that animals can transmit this virus to people.  If my pet is sick and I think it's COVID-19, what should I do? If your pet gets sick after contact with a person with COVID-19, DO NOT take your pet to the vet clinic yourself. Call your vet to determine the next steps for your pet's treatment and care.  Is there a treatment for pets infected with COVID-19? There is no specific treatment for animals diagnosed with SARS CoV-2, so testing will unlikely alter clinical management or change the recommended measures to manage potential risks if an animal tests positive.  Can my vet test my pet if I ask them to? Vets are strongly encouraged to rule out other, more common causes of illness on animals before considering COVID-19 testing.

What are my legal obligations?

In NSW animal owners and carers have an obligation under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979 (POCTA) to provide food, water, shelter and veterinary care to their animals. In addition the owners of some animals must meet prescribed standards of care under POCTA, the Exhibited Animals Protection Act 1986 and the Animal Research Act 1985.

Am I allowed to leave home to exercise or transport my animals?

Yes.

Any form of exercise with animals is to be undertaken in compliance with the Public Health Orders. All government restrictions on gatherings, social distancing and hygiene measures must be followed.

Further information on using public spaces by visiting the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment webpage.

You should ensure that the place that you wish to transport your animal to is open and that your attendance at that venue will comply with the Public Health Orders.

Practice good biosecurity - e.g. wash down vehicles and transport containers/floats.

It is recommended that you transport your animal(s) directly to the intended destination.

Livestock and fibre saleyard auctions

Auction houses that are open to the public for the purpose of conducting an auction for food supply, livestock, fibre or crops or real estate must comply with social distancing guidelines and restrictions on the number of people at premises that are open.

Livestock includes:

a) cattle, pigs, goats and sheep,
b) camelids, deer or equines (including horses, donkeys, asses, mules and zebras),
c) small poultry (being chickens, turkeys, guinea fowl, ducks, geese, quails, pigeons, pheasants or partridges),
d) large poultry (being emus or ostriches).

In addition to the above requirements, auction houses that are open to the public for the purpose of conducting an auction for  goods other than food, livestock, fibre or real property (this includes an auction of animals that does not meet the above definition of livestock) must also have a COVID-19 safety plan.

For more information about how to create and follow a COVID-19 Safety Plan, see the Industry guidelines for COVID Safe workplaces developed by the NSW Government to keep workers, visitors and customers safe.

More information on how you can protect workers and others from the risk of exposure to COVID-19 by implementing appropriate cleaning and disinfecting measures for your workplace can be found on the SafeWork website.

Animal welfare obligations for food processing plants and manufacturing businesses

In response to industry discussions surrounding meat processing plants, SafeWork NSW, NSW Health and DPI have developed an Animal Welfare and Business Continuity Self-Assessment (PDF, 281.93 KB). This checklist has been prepared in conjunction with the Workplace Health Management Plan Template (PDF, 393.67 KB) to assist food processing plants and manufacturing businesses prepare for and manage the impacts of a disruption on the business and its processing operations.

The Animal Welfare and Business Continuity Self-Assessment (PDF, 281.93 KB) has been developed to assist food processing plants and manufacturing businesses to implement adequate planning and risk mitigation measures to ensure that the welfare of the animals for which they are responsible is not jeopardised in the event of a disruption to the business and its processing operations.

Will food for my animals remain available?

No jurisdiction has expressed an intention to restrict the movement of essential goods and services.

Agriculture and related industries are classified as essential industries and access to feed, fodder and transport will be maintained.

Supermarkets are classified as essential services and will continue to stock companion animal feeds even in the event of tighter restrictions.

Our animals rely on us. Remember it is your responsibility to protect the welfare of animals in your care at all times.

If you own or care for animals, it is important to plan ahead and consider a range of factors that will reduce the risk of animal welfare issues that may occur during a human health pandemic.

Can I travel to tend my bees?

Food production and supply is an essential service.

All beekeepers in NSW have a legal obligation to maintain their hives in a biosecure manner at all times and you might need to travel to fulfil this legal obligation and manage your hives.

This could include but is not limited to carrying out brood inspections, feeding, requeening and other beekeeping activities that are required to ensure hives remain healthy and free from serious diseases like American foulbrood.

We recommend you carry a copy of your current DPI issued certificate of beekeeper registration when travelling. You can obtain a copy of your certificate of beekeeper registration by emailing bfs.admin@dpi.nsw.gov.au.