What has the Humane Society of the United States been doing to address the COVID-19 crisis?

We launched the COVID-19 Relief Fund to support animal shelters, rescue groups and other organizations responding to the economic impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak, with the goal of keeping people and their pets together during this crisis. Contributions to the fund were used to provide veterinary care, pet food, horse feed and animal care supplies, as well as other costs related to caring for animals during the outbreak. View our interactive map to see where the emergency grants were dispersed across the country.

We also helped launch #SpayTogether, a stimulus fund that provides surgery support grants, on-ground assistance, training in high-quality/high-volume spay and neuter procedures and discounted veterinary supplies and services to shelters and clinics affected by COVID-19.

Early in the outbreak, we assembled a toolkit for animal shelters to help them respond to the needs of the communities that they serve and were in close contact with our Shelter and Rescue Partners to share information.

Our Pets for Life program, which supports pet owners in underserved areas, has been delivering additional supplies to senior and immobile clients and is modifying spay/neuter and veterinary appointments to maintain those valuable services within guidelines. Client visits by Pets for Life teams are shifting to phone outreach and delivery of food and medications to avoid close contact for at-risk clients.

The Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association worked with our state directors to ensure that veterinary services and other animal care needs are identified as essential businesses. HSVMA is also helping veterinarians adapt to telemedicine and ensuring that providers are able to offer those services.

The staff and volunteers at our animal care centers remain committed to ensuring their animal residents receive the highest quality care. Our sanctuaries already practice excellent standards of disease prevention and are prepared for necessary changes in supply chains and staffing.

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Help keep people and pets together.

Pet owners hit hardest by COVID-19 will soon be facing immense financial barriers to veterinary access and other animal care services. They need your help.

Pets for Life client and her dog
Nicole Rosenberg

What has been done at the state level?

Our state directors all across the country asked emergency managers and other officials to ensure that critical animal needs, such as the care of animals in various settings and the ability for animal care personnel to perform their duties, were addressed in emergency orders.

Many worked with local pet food banks by encouraging donations, helping with delivery and posting resources online. State Facebook pages kept up-to-date about the need for fosters and pet/human COVID-19 facts, plus what people can do to help shelters and each other with pet needs. Find your state and follow along on social media! State Directors also responded to inquiries from shelters and ACOs regarding management during this crisis and reached out to shelters to assess what the most urgent needs are.

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Dog with leash

Should I have a preparedness plan for my pet(s)?

In the event of a crisis or disaster, we urge everyone to have a preparedness plan in place. And, get the word out! Remind community members that having a plan for pets is critical; individuals who become sick or require hospitalization will need to have someone to take their animals. If you can, please endure the current situation from the safety of your own home. 

Some steps to take include:

  • Identify a family member or friend who can care for pets if someone in the household becomes too ill to care for pets.
  • Have crates, food and extra supplies on hand for movement and relocation of pets if necessary.
  • Keep all animal vaccines up to date and have copies of those records available in the event that boarding becomes necessary.
  • Ensure that all medications are documented with dosages and administering directions. It’s a good idea to include the prescription from your veterinarian with the medications and your pet’s to-go bag.
  • Pets should have proper identification: a collar with ID tag and a microchip with current, up-to date contact information.

We understand not everyone has a personal support system or the financial means to meet the above recommendations. When experiencing difficulty in creating a preparedness response, please reach out to local shelters and animal service agencies to find out what support is available. During this crisis, there may be options of temporary housing for pets, donated supplies, subsidized veterinary services and more available to help people care for and stay together with their pets.

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Can my pet get COVID-19?

There is still much that is unknown about the virus that causes COVID-19, but we do know that it can spread from people to animals in some situations. A relatively small number of pets worldwide, including fewer than 130 cats and dogs in the United States, have been reported to be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, nearly all after close contact with people with COVID-19.

Infected pets might get sick or they might not have any symptoms. Of the pets that have gotten sick, most only had mild illness and fully recovered. Serious illness in pets appears to be extremely rare. If you think your pet is sick with the virus or if you have concerns about your pet’s health, talk to your veterinarian.

Pets should be treated just as any other human family members. If you are sick with COVID-19 or suspect you are infected, restrict contact with your pets and other animals, just like you would other people. Ask another member of your household to care for your pets while you are sick. Avoid contact with your pet, including petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked and sharing food or sleeping in the same bed. If you must care for your pet or be around animals while you are sick, wear a cloth face covering and wash your hands before and after you interact with them.

According to the CDC, there is no evidence that animals are playing a significant role in the spread of COVID-19 to people. Based on the information available to date, the risk of animals spreading COVID-19 to people is considered to be low. However, because all animals can carry germs that can make people sick, it is always a good idea to practice healthy habits around pets and other animals.

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How can I keep my home clean and safe for my pets?

Some cleaners that help prevent COVID-19 aren’t safe for your pets.

  • Keep pets out of rooms where you’re using cleaners that contain bleach, alcohol and other powerful chemicals.

  • Don’t leave cleaners out where your pets could stick their paws into them.

  • Follow the product instructions—some cleaners need to sit for a bit to be effective, but surfaces can then be rinsed to avoid burning tender paws.

  • If your pet needs a bath, only use products intended for bathing pets. Other cleaners can hurt them.

Read More From All Animals Magazine

What can I do to help animals and shelters during this crisis?


During the COVID-19 crisis, so many people stepped up to adopt and foster a homeless pet, helping to ease the workload of shelter and rescue staff and volunteers and providing comfort to pets. If you’re interested in adopting or fostering a pet, please reach out to shelters and rescue groups in your area for more information. We anticipate many pet owners will remain in crisis long-term. Consider helping a neighbor who is searching for affordable, pet-friendly housing by fostering their pet and donating pet food to your local animal shelter, so that struggling pet owners have access to the food and supplies their pet needs. Check in with your local animal shelter and ask how you can become involved in supporting the community.

Portrait of a cute cat in a shelter
Julie Busch Branaman
For The HSUS

Shelter programs

We encourage organizations to suspend fees and fines (return-to-owner, licensing, etc.) to reunite and keep as many families together as possible. In addition, our eviction response toolkit provides ideas and programs to help pet owners find and keep pet-friendly housing like sponsoring pet fees and providing free foster care to owners in a housing transition. With kindness, compassion and flexibility, we can work toward all pets and the people that love them staying together during this crisis.

Other Ways to Help Your Local Shelter or Rescue

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Where can I get help if I am experiencing financial hardship and need help covering costs for pet care?

Please refer to our list of organizations that provide financial support for pet owners.

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How can future pandemics like COVID-19 be prevented?

We can reduce the risk of future pandemics like COVID-19 by reducing close interactions between wild animals and humans, particularly in those cases where many animals of many different species are mixed together in close confinement. As we have learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, and the SARS epidemic before it, concentrations of wildlife in markets is a high risk to public health. We are asking governments around the world to ban the wildlife trade (including wildlife markets like that which spawned the virus that caused COVID-19), transport and consumption.

Read More on "A Humane World" Blog

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