Note, July 5, 2020: There’s still an enormous amount going on, but basic information is not longer changing as quickly as it was. So these briefings will become sporadic from now on and/or will be replaced by longer pieces on specific subjects.
June 15, 2020
Black Lives Matter and Animal Sheltering
The COVID-19 pandemic has had the effect of anchoring animal shelters in their communities, as the community became the shelter for most of our organizations. It has also changed how we value different roles in society, as we have seen how personal services workers, janitorial staff, couriers, agricultural and factory workers have kept us alive, often at enormous personal cost. Into this context has come the murder of George Floyd and the enormous growth of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Many in the sheltering world have begun intensive conversations on diversity and inclusion in our industry, personal biases, inequities in how we have historically provided services and inadvertent harms we may cause through some of our practices. Some resources:
- Toronto Humane Society’s BLM statement
- Pets For Life Sustainability Guide
- CARE (Companions and Animals for Reform and Equity)
OVMA Guidelines for Stage 2
The OVMA has updated its practice reopening guide now that much of the Province is moving to Stage 2.
Maddie’s Webinar: COVID Control Strategies – Maintaining Safety During Re-Opening and Beyond
Re-opening shelters and services brings the risk of COVID-19 resurgence. A holistic strategy is needed to implement new measures and change the internal culture so that staff understand and buy in to this prolonged “new normal.” The Toronto Humane Society’s new strategy, designed to keep staff and public safe, provide a roadmap for reopening that can be customized for shelters and clinics everywhere.
Join us on Wednesday, June 24 at 12n Pacific / 3pm Eastern for a presentation and Q&A with Million Cat Challenge co-founder Dr. Julie Levy and Dr. Linda Jacobson and panelists from Toronto Humane Society. Register here.
More about Face Masks
There’s growing consensus that face masks are a key component of slowing and controlling COVID-19 transmission.
- “The most effective weapon in the war on COVID-19 is as plain as the mask on your face”
- And for a more technical analysis, in case you still need convincing: “The Masks Masquerade – incompetence and errors in reasoning around face covering”\
Mink-human COVID-19 transmission
Dutch mink farms have been ordered to depopulate following two cases where it is strongly suspected that there was mink-to-human transmission. Beyond that initial jump to humans, these are the only two animal-to-human cases reported so far.
Action items for animal shelters:
- Advise community cat colony caregivers to avoid the colonies if they are feeling unwell or have recently been exposed to COVID-19When re-opening TNR, physically distance cats from different colonies
- Avoid overcrowding and stress in sheltered cats, especially kittens, to avoid COVID-19 outbreaks in these more susceptible populations.
- To the extent possible, leave community cats where they are and house animals in foster homes, not in shelters.
June 8, 2020
Ontario Re-opening: Regional Move to Stage 2
The premier today announced a further re-opening of services for parts of the Ontario. The Province’s website lists the areas that may and may not move to Stage 2. The OVMA’s recommendation for areas moving to Stage 2 is that veterinary practices should consider:
- “The number of positive COVID-19 cases in your area. If infections rates are high, maintaining curbside measures is strongly recommended. COVID-19 cases can be found on your local public health website.
- If the clinic can accommodate all social distancing measures required by the province.
- If staff have the appropriate PPE.
- If the practice owner or manager has discussed with staff the strategies that will be put in place to allow clients to enter the clinic safely to ensure they are comfortable with what will be done.”
Similar considerations apply to animal shelters.
COVID-19 Recovery Toolkit
The Toronto Humane Society has graciously allowed us to share the elements of its plan for reopening, which have been turned into a toolkit and are available here. All of the documents are white-labelled and downloadable, so that shelters can use them just as they wish, without the need for rebranding or attribution. (We’ve even been invited to present a Maddie’s webinar on the Toolkit – tentatively scheduled for June 24.)
Face Masks, Face Shields and Eye Protection
Dr. Scott Weese shared this excellent infographic at the CVMA virtual Town Hall on June 3. He also clarified that if face shields are used, they should be used alone only in low-risk setting, or else only as an adjunct to face masks. A new Lancet study showed the effectiveness of face masks, eye protection and physical distancing in reducing the risk of infection. If face masks were mandatory in areas with ongoing community transmission, we might get out of this sooner or have an easier time of it.
It’s Really Not Over
Mixed messaging, inconsistent messages, quarantine fatigue and better weather… There’s a feeling in the air that some people think this pandemic is behind us. It isn’t. More than 100,000 new infections are being reported worldwide daily, and Ontario numbers are stubbornly not coming down as we’d like them to, particularly in Toronto. There are significant concerns that case numbers will rise, in weeks to come, in many places where restrictions have been relaxed too soon, or where many people are no longer observing voluntary measures. Screening questions, physical distancing, face masks, hand hygiene and a long-term culture shift are needed. View the Recovery Toolkit for more information on how to implement these changes in a sustainable way.
June 1, 2020
Hill’s Disaster Fund Now Accepting Applications: UNTIL JUNE 2
In response to COVID-19 and the challenges being faced by animal welfare organizations, Hill’s Pet Nutrition Canada and Humane Canada have partnered, for the first time, to offer eligible animal welfare organization across Canada the opportunity to apply for financial grants to assist with:
• Adoption programs (reduce/waive adoption fees)
• Foster programs support
• Veterinary care
• Off-set adoption fee to convert from foster to adopt
• Operating expenses
Keep Calm and Carry on… New TNR Video
This video from the Alliance for Contraception in Dogs and Cats offers a reassuring set of models showing that the current temporary setback in TNR will not undo the gains that we have achieved.
Maddie’s UW/UCD Fellowship: Now Recruiting
Fellows are being recruited for the 2020-2021 Maddie’s UW/UCD Fellowship. This is an incredible opportunity to advance shelter medicine in Canada. Please spread the word far and wide! Applications are due June 22nd. https://www.uwsheltermedicine.com/news/2020/5/now-accepting-applications-for-maddie-s-uw-ucd-combined-shelter-medicine-fellowships-2020-2021
We’ll be hearing a lot more about this, and hopefully doing more of it too. Here’s NACA’s Policy Platform – well worth reading. It includes:
- Keeping pets with their families
- Investing in community-based services
- Community cats
- Breed-neutral policies
- Pet-inclusive housing
- Intersection with social services
Ontario’s Re-opening May Become Regional
The Premier has been considering a regional approach to re-opening for Ontario, given the uneven distribution of cases in the Province. Watch the media for more announcements.
May 25, 2020
COVID-19 website for Canadian shelters
Don’t forget to visit our COVID-19 website for Canadian animal shelters. This is a joint project with AVQMR and Humane Canada, with a distinctly Canadian focus. The sections will be updated approximately weekly or as needed. COVID-19 resource for Canadian, shelters.
Re-opening shelter services: Ontario Guidelines
Here’s a helpful link that will help direct shelter medical staff in the re-opening process: Workplace Safety & Prevention Services: Guidance on Health and Safety For Veterinary Services (Pet Groomers/ Dog Walkers/ Pet Boarding/ Animal Care Providers) during COVID-19Curbside Care course
History-taking and communication are critical in our work. How do we do that effectively without the client in the room? Here’s a free online course that has received great reviews from viewers. “This unique and complimentary course focused on Veterinary Curbside Care will provide a perspective on how to identify the gaps and opportunities to create a sound curbside care plan.”
The National Animal Control Association continues to offer great advice about modified operations during re-opening.
May 19, 2020
NEW COVID-19 website for Canadian shelters
OSMA, AVQMR and Humane Canada are excited to announce the launch of our COVID-19 resource for Canadian, shelters. The site will be updated regularly to ensure it stays relevant.
Portalmania2020! – PLEASE HELP!
We’ve had a far greater response to our portal competition than anticipated. That’s fantastic – but it leaves us with a significant funding shortfall. We’d love to fund all the portals that were requested. Please support us by donating, and share our GoFundMe campaign with your contacts: https://www.gofundme.com/f/c4qgf-portalmania-2020
Dr. Scott Weese webinar available
The recording of Dr. Weese’s COVID-19 webinar for Canadian shelters can now be viewed here. Thank you again to Ogena Solutions for their generous sponsorship.
More about re-opening
Dr. Weese had sobering counsel about re-opening – “Opening up doesn’t mean the outbreak is winding down … it means there’s room for you in the ICU.” Now that services are re-opening we need to be more vigilant and cautious than ever to prevent illness in our shelter staff and the public we serve. Here’s a brilliant article by Dr. Atul Gawande (author of the “Checklist Manifesto”) that explains how the enormous hospital he works at has managed to keep its staff infection rates really low.
Testing animals for COVID-19
The Canadian Council of Veterinary Officers has published a position statement on COVID-19 testing in animals. They emphatically do NOT recommend testing, unless in exceptional circumstances.
May 11, 2020
Re-opening shelter services
Everyone is galvanized by the idea of re-opening services and the economy. But the road ahead will not be smooth. There will be gains and retreats. It’s important to remember that our goal has been to flatten the curve and this modest goal has been achieved in some jurisdictions but not in others. The virus is still with us, with no miracle cures and no imminent vaccine. Therefore we can expect flare-ups and set-backs, and our plans need to include those as well. Important considerations for reopening plans:
- Physical distancing, hand hygiene and frequent disinfection of frequently-touched surfaces are the top priorities to prevent human infections
- Keep shelter populations and shelter traffic as low as possible
- Look at the things we’ve been forced to do differently and better (e.g. housing animals in foster homes, adoption by appointment, Don’t Kitnap the Kittens) and work to lock in those gains at your shelter
Webinar May 15 – Dr. Scott Weese
In this webinar for Canadian shelters, Dr. Scott Weese DVM DACVIM (Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph) will explain current shelter recommendations for infection and infection control during the pandemic. Based on survey responses, the focus will be on (1) Planning for reopening shelter services, (2) Critical changes to infection control processes in the shelter; and (3) Managing COVID-exposed pets in the shelter. The webinar will provide an opportunity for Q&A and discussion. The webinar is presented by the OSMA, AVQMR and Humane Canada, and kindly sponsored by Ogena Solutions.
Vaccination during COVID-19
Vaccination should continue if risks of infectious diseases are high, and can be postponed if those risks are low. View the Toronto Humane Society vaccine FAQ for an example of how to determine risk and prioritize foster and public vaccination services during COVID-19.
Apply for free portals for your shelter to permanently provide more humane conditions and improve animal welfare!! COMPETITION CLOSES MAY 15.
Help support our work
If you aren’t already a member, join the OSMA (membership open to DVMs, RVTs or VTs and students), or donate to OSMA to help us continue and expand the work we do.
May 4, 2020
COVID-19 Spay/Neuter and Wellness Clinic Preparedness Guide
A group of shelter and spay/neuter professionals have developed this excellent guideline “to help clinic leadership formulate the safest and most reasonable approaches to operating spay/neuter and wellness clinics and maintain life-saving functions.” This is a tool that each shelter and community can use to to assess when and how to re-open clinic services. Many of the guidelines apply to in-shelter and other services too.
The Ontario Government’s framework for re-opening
The Ontario government’s framework was published last week and provides a high-level overview of how services will re-open in the Province. It’s a useful framework for shelters to reference when planning how to carefully and responsibly re-expand services that have been scaled back or stopped altogether.
One thing to be very thoughtful about is that we have been catapulted into some new ways of helping animals. Some of those approaches are better than those we have been using over the years and we should look at ways of locking in those gains. Many groups are starting to talk about Social Services for Pets as an overarching framework for how shelters should rethink their core functions.
Struggling to keep track of all those webinars?
The ShelterMedPortal now has a centralized list of webinars that will be regularly updated. (The OSMA/AVQMR/Humane Canada webinars will continue to be advertised to Canadian groups only, to maintain their Canadian focus.)
April 27, 2020
Commercial testing for COVID-19 in pets
Commercial laboratories have announced that testing will be available for pets. This creates a number of potential challenges. See the OSMA/AVQMR Recommendations for Shelter Veterinarians regarding testing for COVID-19.
Heartworm testing and treatment during COVID-19
OSMA has published carefully-referenced recommendations for prevention and treatment of heartworm during the pandemic.
Dogs and cats stressed out?
April 20, 2020
Canadian spay/neuter webinar with Dr. Julie Levy
This excellent and informative webinar was attended by representatives or shelters, rescues and TNR groups from across the country. The recording of the webinar is available here. Thank you to Ogena Solutions for sponsoring the webinar.
Pets and COVID-19
A reminder that we are frequently updating our blog on this subject, as a resource for shelters and the public. Two new cases were identified in cats in New York a couple of days ago, and this is likely to get media attention. IDEXX has just announced that it will make testing available to veterinarians for animals that meet specific criteria, and this may present challenges to shelters. More guidance will no doubt be coming out, but meanwhile, this is Scott Weese’s excellent advice (for any test): “never do a test without a (good) reason” and “never do a test without a plan to use the result.”
OSMA now represented at Humane Canada weekly COVID meetings
We were pleased to be invited to attend the HC weekly members’ video meetings, along with Dr. Alexandre Ellis, who is a shelter medicine resident at UWisconsin and Board member of AVQMR. Our contribution was very well received.
Planning for the COVID-19 future
Fortunately, shelters have always needed to be resourceful and flexible. We will need this ingenuity in abundance in the months and years to come. It’s looking increasingly as though our operations will need to change for some time to come, possibly years. This is a good time to start planning for how and when to re-open services, what order to do that in and what they will look like.
April 13, 2020
Canadian COVID-19 Webinar
There were more than 220 registrations for our Canadian shelter webinar with Dr. Sandra Newbury! Shelters from across the country were represented and had the opportunity to ask questions. As a result of this tremendous response, we are planning to follow up with more webinars and are discussing a Canadian-focused website. Please email if you are interested in helping with content or translation. Thank you once again to Ogena Solutions for sponsoring the webinar.
The Alliance for Contraception in Cats and Dogs presented a webinar last week about megestrol acetate as a tool in the toolkit for managing fertility in cats during COVID-19. For an FAQ about this drug, visit this link.
Key points:MGA prevents ovulation and can therefore suppress heat and prevent pregnancy in catsIt must be prescribed by a veterinarian and is extra-label in catsIt should not be used in juvenile cats or pregnant catsIt needs to be given weekly, and a compounded liquid is recommendedIt can have serious side-effects like diabetes, although these are uncommon at currently recommended doses
Keep Kittens Out of Shelters – Why and How
Most shelters are not spaying and neutering right now. That means a lot more more kittens this kitten season. Kitten admissions to shelters should be limited to urgent situations only and, if admitted, they should go to foster homes as quickly as possible. That’s both to protect our staff and to prevent infection in cats.
A study showed that kittens are more susceptible to COVID-19 than young adult cats. While there is no current evidence that cats play a role in the epidemiology of this disease, there are concerns that an outbreak could be possible in a shelter – particularly in kittens and particularly if there is crowding and sub-optimal infection control.
April 5, 2020
We are entering a critical period for COVID-19 infections in Ontario and other parts of Canada. What we do, and don’t do, in the next two weeks will literally save (or cost) human lives. Although we are dedicated to helping animals, people have got to be our first priority right now.
The Ontario Public Health presentation on April 3 transparently shared projections about the numbers of cases and deaths in Ontario if we all do the right thing, and the numbers if we don’t.
No intervention: 6,000 deaths and 300,000 cases
Current preventions: 1,600 deaths and 80,000 cases
Extreme preventions: 200 deaths and 12,500 cases
This is everybody’s fight.
The following recommendations are based on positions from the COVID-19 shelter response group (condensed here). The group includes many key organizations – U. Wisconsin, Florida and Davis shelter medicine programs, NACA, HSUS and others, and Canadian partners OSMA, AVQMR, Humane Canada and CVMA, who all attend daily group discussions.
What shelters should, and should not do right now:DO protect your staff and broader community by limiting the number of staff who have to go in to work DO allow social distancing among staff who need to be in the shelter, by minimizing the number of tasks that require close contactThat means:NO elective surgeriesLIMIT admissions to truly urgent cases ADOPT out animals that have not been spayed or neutered. We should, and can, trust our adopters to do the right thing when the time comes, and should provide all possible support at that time. Here’s Dr. Julie Levy’s open letter about why we must suspend spay-neuter during the pandemic and here is the webinar she presented. FOSTER animals that are not ready for adoptionWhat about kittens?Limit kitten admissions to truly urgent cases. We have to keep animals in the community, and trust and help community members to take care of them. Resources here and here.Daily COVID-19 Shelter Digest
Subscribe to the Daily shelter digest from the group mentioned above, for credible and up-to-date information.
AVQMR/OSMA Facebook page
We strongly encourage OSMA members to utilize this group in this difficult time. Every comment can be translated just by clicking the “Translate” command so it’s easy to communicate in two languages. The page is here.
March 29, 2020
There’s a deluge of content out there about COVID-19, but not much that is Canadian-shelter-focused. The intention is to provide a resource for our shelters. The updates will be BRIEF. Goal is approximately weekly.
Symptomatic COVID-19-positive cat in Belgium
This development may create some panic, so let’s be ready for it. Worms & Germs has a very measured response to this case – essentially saying this was predictable and does not fundamentally change previous recommendations. Remember, this is one cat amidst more than 500,000 human infections. The overwhelming risk remains human-to-human transmission. Health Canada has reassuring information about animals that we can direct the public to (go to the “Animals in Canada” section).
Recommendation to stop non-emergency transport
OSMA and AVQMR have endorsed a call to stop most animal transport, in order to maintain social distancing and thereby protect people. Lifesaving transfers within communities should continue.
Other recommendations for Animal Control agencies
These are included on the page referenced above. Areas covered include:Limiting shelter services, what should and should not be providedStopping all elective surgeriesRecommendations for handling COVID-19-exposed animalsDaily COVID-19 Shelter Digest
Subscribe to the Digest from major US sheltering agencies for credible and up-to-date information. AVQMR, OSMA and Humane Canada are participating in daily and twice-weekly briefings and discussions.
AVQMR/OSMA Facebook page (members only)
This page has been used very effectively for COVID-related communication between Canadian shelters. Most input is coming from AVQMR members. We strongly encourage OSMA members to use the group in this difficult time. Every comment can be translated just by clicking the “Translate” command so it’s easy to communicate in two languages. The page is here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/283210268792770/?ref=bookmarks
We are working hard to pull together a Canadian shelter COVID-19 webinar presented by a shelter medicine specialist. This is a collaboration between OSMA, AVQMR and Humane Canada at present. Speaker availability is our main limitation right now. Watch this space.