The coronavirus pandemic has prompted many Federal and State mandates to order the closures of many businesses in U.S. towns and cities nationwide. In our area, nearly every school, gym, bar and restaurant have temporarily shuddered in compliance with State mandated ‘social distancing’ guidelines. Over the past few weeks, even large cities like San Francisco have issued ‘shelter-in-place’ orders, one of the most restrictive orders citizens have ever lived under in the face of pandemic. Even ‘essential’ businesses like grocery stores and gas stations have amended their hours and modes of operation to abide by social distancing guidelines in order to slow the spread of the infamous virus.
While these essential services might be at the forefront of our collective consciousness during this time, other businesses that provide immensely critical service to the community must endure despite the inherent risk. Animal shelters and veterinary practices across the region have developed new standards and taken precautionary measures in order to ensure the safety of employees, residents, and the pets we hold so dear to our heart. Here is what a few animal shelters and vets are doing in our area to persevere through pandemic.
In the small, pastoral town of Rhinebeck, NY veterinary equine stalwarts Rhinebeck Equine, L.L.P. has continued to persist despite uncertainty. The equestrian haven for horse handlers and their beloved horses has remained committed to providing the best measure of safety for their staff, clients, and community, while ensuring the best care for our patients. In order to continue to provide critical care the leaders at Rhinebeck Equine have made some temporary modifications, including those to their appointment structure. According to the members of Rhinebeck Equine, “As of [now], we encourage rescheduling appointments that are not essential for the welfare of our patients to [sometime] in April. We will be focusing on emergent, urgent, life-preserving preventative health, and time-sensitive matters only.” Similar modifcations will extend to the onsite farm including the vet and assistants being the only ones handling horses whenever possible. Further amendments per Rhinebeck Equine include, “having your horse ready in their stall with a halter on, blankets off and lead rope outside the stall. For your safety and ours, all clients and anyone at the barn must keep 6’ apart from Rhinebeck Equine staff. If you have an emergency while someone in your household is having symptoms of COVID-19, please let us know ahead of time so that we can send an assistant with the veterinarian. Arrangements must be made for electronic payment. Please, no shaking hands” The veterinary clinic at Rhinebeck Equine has also instituted new safety guidelines as well. According to members, “No clients or visitors are allowed in the hospital, with the exception of end-of-life decisions. Rhinebeck Equine staff will meet you at the trailer. Please remove all blankets and wraps and take them home with you. We will place one of our lead ropes on your horse in the trailer and will ask you to help with the trailer gate. If you or a member of your household have had or are having any respiratory symptoms, please let us know ahead of time so that we can take additional precautions.”
Amidst vast amounts of uncertainty in world of pet care, animal shelters have become perhaps the most anxious sector in the field. Between a drastic drop in pet adoptions and an overwhelming sense of nervous anticipation for an influx of animals post pandemic, local shelters have drastically emergency plans in order ensure the safety of everyone involved and stem the tide of homeless pets. In Hyde Park, NY the Dutchess County SPCA has put themselves at the forefront of proactive measures implemented to prevent such unfortunate outcomes and has since activated its ‘Emergency COVID-19 Plan’. According to the Dutchess County SPCA “In preparation for events related to the current COVID-19 outbreak, the Dutchess County SPCA is implementing its emergency plan. DCSPCA anticipates an extraordinary influx of animals if the virus emergency is prolonged, due to large numbers of hospitalized owners and the economic impact on the community.” The SPCA will remain open and continue toallow for adoptions of new animals via their website. The Wellness Clinic however will not be booking appointments for routine wellness in order to conserve space and supplies for the anticipated animal influx.
Finally, effective immediately, the DCSPCA will be accepting emergency intakes only, that is, animals that are in danger and require immediate protection. The DCSPCA says “Any Dutchess County resident wishing to surrender a pet due to non-emergency reasons such as relocation or landlord complaints should make alternative arrangements until such time as we are able to re-establish our regular intake procedures.”
Now more than ever, the DCSPCA is turning toward its community for help and support in order to help save the lives of animals effected in different ways by the pandemic. The organization is encouraging residents to emergency foster in order to clear kennel space to accommodate new animals coming in, they will need to put their current animal population into foster. They are also asking for volunteers temporarily to house and feed healthy, adoptable animals—especially cats.
The DCSPCA is also asking for donations due to the significant need for supplies – especially food. Additionally the DCSPCA recommends “community members create a preparedness plan that includes their pets in the event community is impacted by the virus that causes COVID-19. In addition to preparations typically recommended for any natural disaster threat, individuals with pets should identify family members or friends to care for pets if someone in the household comes ill and is hospitalized.”
For more details on Rhinebeck Equine’s updated policies, please visit rhinebeckequine.com
The DCSPCA will continue to assess their plan as this situation evolves. DCSPCA is committed to helping
the pets and people of Dutchess County get through this crisis. For updates, please check out their
website www.dcspca.org and Facebook page (@DCSPCA).