Lack of Pet Care Shouldn’t Prevent Your Medical Treatment

April 14, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic is bringing many issues to light, particularly around healthcare and hospitalization. Many people don’t think about preparing for admission to the hospital until it’s too late. It’s imperative to do this ahead of time. Now is the perfect time to gather your medical records, health care proxy, power of attorney, and plan for pet care if needed.

First, create a go-bag full of extra supplies for your pet, in case someone needs to care for your animal. Include extra food, medications, a leash/harness, a pet carrier, pet waste supplies (litter/litter box or plastic bags), and medical/vaccination records. New York City has created a document that helps you plan for your pet in case of an emergency.

Second, choose a willing and trustworthy person to care for your animal if you are unable. In many cases, a neighbor, friend, or family member is an ideal choice. Always discuss your emergency pet plans with them beforehand and ensure they are familiar with your animal. 

If you do not have someone to assist you with pet care, there are other options: 

● Explore local resources that may offer temporary fostering or boarding:

○ Your pet’s veterinarian may offer emergency boarding, or know of those who do

○ Local shelters may provide boarding or foster care

○ Pet sitting websites are another option

● PAWS: I spoke with Carrie Nydick Finch, Program Director at PAWS NY, to learn more about resources for pet owners in need. PAWS NY is a local company that supports vulnerable populations who are unable to care for their pets. They provide volunteers for house calls (currently halted due to COVID19), pet foster care, and have launched a small pilot hospital respite program, which can provide pet care if someone goes to the hospital (on a case-by-case basis). However, in general, it’s best if the pet is already receiving PAWS services to qualify for hospital respite care, as the pet will already be vetted, and PAWS knows the home is safe.

● PACT: PACT is a nationwide service that provides pet foster care for people who are unable to care for their animals for an extended period. If there is a willing volunteer in your area, it will find you a match. 

● Meals on Wheels Pet Assistance: Depending on your location, your local Meals on Wheels may offer pet assistance as well. 

During this challenging time, there are additional considerations to take into account. The City of New York has put out a fact sheet on animals and COVID-19. I also found this interesting article about foster care for animals who may have been exposed to COVID-19. For more information about COVID-19 and animals, this CDC site has the most up-to-date information.

The main takeaway I’ve learned from my research is this: consider your emergency pet care resources now and make a plan. You don’t want a lack of pet care to prevent you from getting the medical help you need.

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