COVID-19 Mass Dumping of Animals Narrowly Avoided in Mississippi
Authorities in Mississippi deemed animal shelters and rescues “non-essential” during the pandemic. We are continuing our lifesaving work, but all kinds of animal services are temporarily prohibited, from animal transports to spay and neuter surgeries... even adoptions! You can imagine our horror when a local news station ran the headline “Social Distance From Pets to Protect Them from COVID-19.” It stirred quite a panic and sparked a race against time to correct the error before people started mass dumping of animals.
Misinformation and a lack of understanding about COVID-19 had already led to the abandonment and surrender of animal companions. News that a four-year-old Malaysian tiger named Nadia had tested positive for COVID-19 at the Bronx Zoo started people wondering. Then six other big cats displayed symptoms.
One of the reports aired on WAPT in Jackson, irresponsibly urging people to distance themselves from their animal companions. When Doll Stanley, In Defense of Animals’ Justice for Animals Campaign Director, saw it, she immediately sounded the alarm to protect Mississippi animals from being dumped en masse.
Doll contacted Dr. Thomas Abernathy, who contacted the state veterinarian, Dr. Jim Watson. Watson hadn’t seen the troubling WAPT headline, but luckily by that time WLBT had released a new report featuring Gov. Tate Reeves standing behind the caption,” No Data to Indicate People Can Contract COVID-19 From Pets.”
This report included an interview with Dr. Bob Watson of Brookhaven Animal Hospital who spoke about the concern surrounding our interaction with our animal companions during this uncertain time, and highlighted the benefits that come with interacting with them.
Mississippi State University Extension also published an article distinguishing the difference between COVID-19 and different coronaviruses that other species may get, along with the vaccinations they need to receive for their protection.
While the origin of Nadia the tiger’s COVID-19 infection is suspected to have come from a staff member, it has been established that transmission of the virus between us and our animal companions is not a threat.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, there’s no evidence to suggest animals play a significant role in spreading the virus that causes COVID-19, and we should protect our animal companions as we would our human family members by not letting them interact with people or animals outside of our households. If a family member gets sick, they should be isolated from everyone in the household, including animal companions if possible.
Thankfully, the State Board of Animal Health lifted restrictions for rescuers and shelters in the state on April 20. Veterinarians and other animal services will continue to provide curbside service, social distancing, and only allow a single client in an entry room at a time, as recommended.
Scientific advisories can help alleviate fears about contracting COVID-19 from our animal companions and keep them safe at home, instead of being taken to a rescue or shelter.
Please do your part to let friends and family know not to abandon their companions, but keep them safe. You can share this article using the sharing buttons on this page, or share our 10 Tips: How to Help Your Animal Companions and Others During the COVID-19 Outbreak: idausa.org/covidtips.