USDA Urges Caution as SARS-CoV-2 Confirmed in Tiger Kept at NY Zoo

2020-04-06 | AKC Government Relations Department

This weekend, news broke of a confirmed case of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 in humans, in a tiger at the Bronx Zoo in New York.  Six other big cats at the facility are also exhibiting symptoms consistent with the illness.  All are under veterinary care and are expected to recover. 

The infected tiger likely contracted the coronavirus from an infected but asymptomatic zookeeper.  The case highlights the need for further studies to understand if and how different animals could be affected by COVID-19.  While there are no reports of pets becoming sick with COVID-19 in the United States, the case is the first known of a non-domesticated animal with COVID-19 symptoms. 

Both wild and domestic cats are susceptible to feline coronavirus, and a new not-yet-peer-reviewed study from China has found that cats may be able to infect each other with COVID-19.  Dogs, chickens, pigs, and ducks were found to be unlikely to become infected with COVID-19.  Dogs can contract certain types of coronaviruses, such as the canine respiratory coronavirus, but COVID-19 is believed to not be a health threat to dogs. 

In guidance issued yesterday, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the United States Centers for Disease Control continue to monitor public and animal health developments and are working to support state and local health departments and state animal health officials, which will make determinations about whether animals should be tested for COVID-19.  It also clarified that routine testing of zoo or the general companion animal population is not recommended at this time; and that testing for companion animals will only be done if animal and public health officials agree that testing should occur due to a link to a known human case of COVID-19.  Click here to read USDA’s FAQ on Companion Animal Coronavirus Testing, about how such decisions may be made. 

USDA further cautioned, “Anyone sick with COVID-19 should restrict contact with animals, out of an abundance of caution including pets, during their illness, just as they would with other people.  Although there have not been reports of pets becoming sick with COVID-19 in the United States, it is still recommended that people sick with COVID-19 limit contact with animals until more information is known about the virus.  When possible, have another member of your household care for your animals while you are sick.  If you are sick with COVID-19, avoid contact with your pet, including petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, and sharing food.  If a person must care for a pet or be around animals, they should wash their hands before and after the interaction.” 

Dr. Jerry Klein, Chief Veterinary Officer for the American Kennel Club (AKC), urges common-sense best practices when it comes to our pets: “If you have children, you wouldn’t have them touch a puppy and put their fingers in their mouth because they can have fecal contamination,” he says. “The general practice of washing our hands after touching a puppy or a dog—that’s normal hygiene.”  Healthy pet owners in the U.S. should continue to follow basic hygienic precautions such as washing their hands with soap and water before and after contact with any animal, including dogs and cats. 

For more information, check out AKC’s Coping With Coronavirus COVID-19 hub, which provides answers to your coronavirus concerns, plus shares at-home activity ideas, training tips, and educational resources. 

While continuing to work to protect your dogs and your rights, AKC Government Relations (AKC GR) remains committed to keeping you up to date on the latest COVID-19 information that may impact you and your dogs.  AKC GR’s COVID-19 resources page in the AKC Legislative Action Center provides a wealth of timely news and information to keep you informed of developments.  If you have any questions, we encourage you to contact us at doglaw@akc.org.

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