Shelter pets are OK, for the most part. Now, let’s look at yours

Long Beach Animal Care Services has been closed to the public since the end of March. The Scratching Post has featured stories about the major blitz by nonprofits and an army of ready-to-pounce fosters who took in the (by now) 200-some animals whose care might have been limited to a handful of staff or volunteers.

Two rescues have emptied the animal shelter. They couldn’t have done it without you, the fosters

“We currently have seven dogs and eight cats,” said Christine Kucenas, the shelter’s operations supervisor. “Pretty much all are either in their stray hold, have rescue interest, are being medically treated, or are under quarantine. The community and our rescue partners have done and continue to do an amazing job of coming together to assist the shelter.”

As far as city animals go, you can rest easy, but not too easy because dogs, cats and rabbits will keep trickling in and fosters will come in handy, particularly for cats as kitten season approaches. But concerning our own nonverbal (except for certain species of birds) housemates: We’re already nearly at the variable midpoint of mass confinement, which will likely move forward on the volume scale, so it’s more than about time to address their needs.

a small black kitten, an orange-and-white cat and a black terrier at from bowls.

Be sure that your pets—and you—have three weeks of food available.

Stock up, but don’t hoard

The Humane Society of the United States recommends the following preparedness plan for sheltering with your pet:

  • Identify a family member or friend who can care for your pets if someone in the household becomes too ill.
  • 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.

Dr. Greg Perrault, operator of Cats & Dogs Animal Hospital in Long Beach, suggests taking inventory of your prescriptions and getting a two-to-three-weeks’ supply of any needed medication and food, particularly prescription food, and a two-to-three-months’ supply of flea, tick and heartworm meds. He also suggested keeping Benadryl on hand in case your dog gets stung by a bee on a walk. Check with your vet for dosage.

“Don’t panic-buy—and we won’t allow it,” Perrault said. Prescription food delivery, he said, has been slow during the pandemic, and he wants to ensure that there’s enough on hand for the demand.

A two or three weeks’ supply of litter, birdseed, bunny chews and whatever else your pet needs should also suffice. Please don’t hoard, especially with litter—look what we’re all going through with toilet paper. Food, too—leave some for other pets. Imagine one of them staring with big eyes at their human as their little tongue hangs out over a cobweb-covered food dish.

Some pets will take a powder if they get the chance, but please keep an eye on yours, and get a microchip if you can during the pandemic. Collars and tags can fall off, but microchips are embedded and don’t have much of a chance of coming free. The American Veterinary Medical Association reported a sizable percentage of chipped pets returned home over those who weren’t chipped.

Keep an eye out for abandoned and stray animals as well. Some veterinarians will come out curbside and scan for a chip—Long Beach Animal Hospital, Cats & Dogs and a few others, for instance. With the shelter closed to the public, it may be difficult to call out an officer to scan for a chip (although there’s no reason why you shouldn’t); you can find local and social-media resources for lost and found animals in this article.

A man walks his dog along Bluff Park on Sunday, March 29, 2020. Photo by Bill Alkofer.

Cleanliness should be next to dogliness

Practice social distancing with your pets as well as with yourself. This goes especially for dogs because they get walked in public—more frequently now because it’s one of the few things you’re allowed to do to avoid becoming a complete shut-in.

But with the chances of contagion quite literally in the air, please don’t ask if you may pet someone’s dog, and please don’t allow anyone to pet yours. Don’t touch the random cat, either (what’s that cat doing outdoors?). Wash your own hands before touching your pets, even if you’re the only human in the house and particularly if you’ve been out on an essential errand. Although there’s little chance that your pet will catch COVID-19 and an even smaller one that they’ll give it to you, the bug can still ride on their fur as a passenger.

“You shouldn’t be touching others’ pets right now, and people shouldn’t be touching yours so as not to spread it,” said Dr. Cara Nguyen, associate veterinarian at Primary Care Animal Hospital. “Yes, the virus can live on the fur, so I recommend that whenever you’re touching other people’s pets, or even your own, that you wash your hands. We wash our hands each time we see a patient to be sure we’re not transmitting anything.”

Idexx, a veterinary diagnostics company, has tested thousands of dogs and cats for COVID-19 and found no positive results. So far, research doesn’t indicate that cats and dogs can become infected with COVID-19 and are even less likely to give it to you. But  WSAVA (World Small Animal Veterinary Association) Global Veterinary Community reminds that there’s still a lot that’s unknown regarding this virus.
There have been a few cases of suspected human-to-animal COVID-19 transmissions. In China, two dogs tested “weak positive” for the virus, and one died. Because that dog had underlying health conditions and was 17 years old and because the owner wouldn’t permit an autopsy, no determination can be made about COVID-19’s role in the death.
The big cats who tested positive likely contracted the virus from an infected zookeeper. Also, many types of species-specific coronaviruses exist; housecats are different species from tigers and lions, and so far, none have been reported to have contracted COVID-19.

What I think is important to understand is that dog and cats have potential coronaviruses—all kinds of them,” Perrault said, specifically referring to feline infectious peritonitis (FIP). FIP is a mutation of feline coronavirus that isn’t contagious to humans but is nearly always fatal to cats.

The Center for Communicable Disease maintains a page detailing awareness of coping with coronavirus and pets. It can be accessed here.

signs in veterinary office that announce new protocols

Signs on Primary Care Animal Hospital announce new protocols. Photo by Kate Karp.

Veterinary procedures have changed.

People doctors are changing the way they see patients, and so are veterinarians. Even if your pets aren’t ill, check their vet’s website to see how their protocols have changed—don’t phone unless there’s no other option. Many veterinarians are now only taking emergency cases and aren’t doing routine medical care such as exams. Protocols are changing as well; several clinics have clients wait outside to avoid personal contact and will come out to pick up the animal.

“What we’re trying to do right now is to treat only sick cats and dogs,” said Morgan Strong, one of the office assistants at Primary Care Animal Hospital. “Any wellness exams right now, for healthy pets, we’re postponing. Vaccines are not a priority right now, except for puppies and kittens—they do need their booster shots to protect them. We’re just trying to minimize traffic in the lobby, protect all the pets and the humans. We’re being optimistic, but right now, we don’t know. We’re just doing what we can.”

Primary Care is also selling prescription food and medications for their patients.

Long Beach Animal Hospital is still seeing patients for routine care, spay/neuter procedures and general exams. They’re also selling food and medication. Hours of operation remain the same, but medical staff will pick up pets to be examined or treated while the humans wait outside. The exception is for euthanasia—the clinic will allow up to two clients to come into exam rooms to be with their pet and say goodbye.

Long Beach Animal Emergency will still be open 24/7 but will also adjust its protocols. Clients will call from their cars when they arrive, and the staff will give instructions for the next steps.

Perrault said that Cats & Dogs is doing everything curbside as well, including animal intake and distributing medicine and prescription diet.

“Nearly all vets are trained in epidemiology and are taking herd health into consideration,” Perrault said. “Virtually no public enters our hospital. We do a quick handoff outside—you have to wear a mask, too. We exchange the owner’s leash with our leash, we bring in the pet and wipe them down with a waterless shampoo. After the examination, we speak to the client over the phone.”

Cats & Dogs is limiting procedures that can be put off, such as routine surgeries or dental work, unless it’s severe. Critical cases such as cats in heat will be addressed case by case.

“We’re trying to do telemedicine for most routine or minor illnesses at a reduced examination fee for existing clients,” Perrault said. “The client sends a photo or video to our email, and then the doctor provides a telephone exam.”

Spay/neuter assistance is compromised, but not generosity

Last month, Long Beach set up a coronavirus relief fund to provide grants to nonprofits so that they can provide public financial assistance during the pandemic. Likewise, Long Beach businesses, small groups and individuals are assisting both people and pets with their needs.

Relief fund launched by city, nonprofit in response to coronavirus pandemic

Spay and neuter procedures are available at many clinics, but the few that provide freebies or low-cost operations have shut down their events and procedures because of social-distancing requirements. FixNation in Sun Valley is a hub for Los Angeles-area nonprofit rescues and feline trappers to bring cats to be fixed at no cost; sadly, they’ve closed indefinitely. Spay/Neuter Project LA (SNP/LA) also serves feral trappers and offers low- or no-cost fixes for cats and dogs, but they’ve suspended their services as well. They’ll begin taking appointments in May. Fix Long Beach has stopped its outdoor mobile spay/neuter clinics but is taking appointments and will respond to to IMs on their Facebook page. The nonprofit will resume the clinics as soon as the stay-at-home orders are lifted.

Long Beach Animal Care Services has spay/neuter vouchers available, and they’ll take a chomp out of the cost of a procedure at several area vet clinics. Residents of any of the five cities served by the shelter—Long Beach, Signal Hill, Seal Beach, Los Alamitos and Cerritos—should telephone the general number at 562-570-7387 to request a voucher.

image of vouchers given through Long Beach Animal Care Services

Vouchers are available through Long Beach Animal Care Services. Call clinics for the amount paid after the procedure.


One Los Angeles nonprofit and a local small business are offering free pet food to humans who have lost their jobs because of the pandemic. KTLA reporter Kacey Montoya’s nonprofit Fix’n Fidos’ focus is free spay/neuter mobile clinics for low-income individuals living in Southern California. During the pandemic, they’ll provide pet owners with the exact brand and type of food that they’ve been feeding their animals. This will certainly help with any dietary quirks.

“We try to help anyone who asks,” Montoya said.

If this would help you, click the link on the nonprofit’s name, email a photo of the food your pet eats to [email protected], and include your name, contact information and a brief description of your work situation. Fix’n Fidos will deliver the food to you or arrange for you to pick it up at a local pet-supply store. Monetary donations made on the organization’s page will help the effort along.

Rocky Kanaka, one of the more creative and generous pet-related small-business owners, likes to share his success with less-fortunate pets. He and his wife, Kelly Hannaford, own The Dog Bakery, which provides freshly made doggie treats and “desserts” that look and smell good enough to make humans slobber. One of the bakeries is located on Second Street in Belmont Shore, and they have permission to stay open (if humans can order out, then surely dogs should be able to as well). During the stay-at-home order, Kanaka is delivering dog food to people who are struggling with job loss or can’t leave their homes, and he’s also making his service available to health-care employees and other essential workers.

“I am humbled by the need and happy that I can help,” Kanaka said. “I think it’s really important to help each other out when times are tough. We’re making as many donations as we can, and we will get through this together.”

Access this link to fill out a form if you need food for your dog or wish to donate to the effort. Check out this video for further details or just to get a much-needed good feeling.

The Humane Society of the United States encourages anyone without the means or support to seek it out where their pet is concerned. Check out their FAQ page with suggestions and resources.

Good luck to you all—this whole thing is weirder than a hairless cat. Your pets are always there for you—if you’ve read this far, you’re there for them as well.

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Kate Karp is the Pets Columnist for the Long Beach Post covering the world of animal activism, pet adoptions and lots of cute cats. She’s called Long Beach home since 1994 and has written for the Post for about 10 years. Kate’s day job is as a copyeditor, which she discovered a love for during her 30-year tenure as a teacher. She describes the job as “like taking the rough edges off a beautiful sculpture.”