SPOKANE, Wash. — Restaurants and bars are not the only institutions affected by the outbreak of the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in Washington state.
Spokane area animal shelters are also feeling the impact, with SpokAnimal closing its doors to the public for adoptions.
Dori Peck, who serves as executive director of SpokAnimal, said coronavirus is causing concerns among families with pets. People have called the shelter with concerns that they will catch the virus from their animals or have even asked to staff to euthanize their animals.
SpokAnimal has veterinarians and staff members who can educate people about pet safety, Peck said. She added that the shelter will not euthanize animals.
Scientists say pet cats and dogs cannot pass the new coronavirus to humans, but they can test positive for low levels of the pathogen if they catch it from their own.
Peck believes there will also be an even greater need for pet food assistance as people lose wages and jobs, so the shelter is offering free food Monday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Peck said people are struggling and she and her staff will work to make sure pets can stay within their homes.
“It tears me up because I watch our staff members and they say we’ll be there no matter what. And that’s the heart of our community and all the people who work here at Spokanimal,” said Peck.
The shelter said they also have a program in place to help care for animals if people get sick and need time to recover.
In the meantime, Peck said they do need the public’s help in fostering animals—especially older dogs and animals with special needs.
While the shelter is limiting access to come into building, a staff member will come to the door to provide food for pets.
SpokAnimal is located at 710 N. Napa St. in Spokane.
Panhandle Animal Shelter announced it would be closing its thrift store and donation center on Wednesday until further notice. The shelter will continue to operate, but with limited services beginning March 19, 2020.
“We realize the impact this decision has on our community and on the shelter, but we feel a deep responsibility to keep our community and team safe,” Panhandle Animal Shelter Executive Director Mandy Evans said in a press release.
Other shelters implement precautionary measures
While other shelters remain open, they are asking people to take precautionary measures.
"While we remain open, please take precautions and refrain from visiting the shelter if you are exhibiting any flu-like symptoms or have had symptoms recently," the Spokane Humane Society wrote on Facebook.
SCRAPS asked people on Facebook to help reduce shelter intakes. The shelter's main focus is reducing the overall numbers of animals housed there, as they anticipate high intakes and low outcomes.
"Because we operate at or near capacity, working to reduce intakes will be essential to avoiding overcrowding and shielding our non-human community members from unnecessary stress!" SCRAPS wrote on Facebook.
SCRAPS encouraged community members to consider adopting animals, become an emergency foster if they are able to provide temporary housing and care to a shelter animal should they reach critical capacity, or consider fostering any healthy stray dogs or cats they may find.