With the elderly in particular encouraged by health officials to stay indoors and practice social distancing to protect themselves from the COVID-19 pandemic, Glynn County Animal Control is doing what it can to lighten their burden.
“We decided to help out the most vulnerable in our community, the senior pet owners. We’re doing free delivery of pet food to from our (storage),” said animal control Manager Tiffani Hill.
Animal control officers made six deliveries on Thursday, effectively the first day the program was in place. Already, shelter staff members say what they have may not be enough.
“We can’t give any pet food that animal control or Glynn County has bought,” said Ashley Gordon, a veterinary technician at the shelter. “As of right now, we’re making calls trying to find new donations and we’re going to need it very shortly.”
Because the program relies on donations, Gordon said the shelter will take whatever it can get.
Currently, they’re looking for 15- to 20-pound bags of dog and cat food. Donations can be handed off during the shelter’s normal hours — noon to 5 p.m., closed on Wednesdays and Sundays — or dropped off at the gate.
Shelter staff members are often in the shelter at 4765 U.S. 17 before noon, so anyone looking to donate can honk their car horn at the gate to be let in.
The service is for seniors 65 and older who may need assistance getting food for their pet, Gordon said.
“If they’re in need, call between (noon) and 2 (p.m.). That way, we have enough time that afternoon to make the rounds and get it delivered,” Gordon said.
The shelter can be reached at 912-554-7500.
Hill said animal control will continue to deliver supplies for as long as an emergency order issued by the Glynn County Commission, which banned large gatherings and closed many types of businesses, is in place.
Anyone who is not elderly but still in need of pet food can contact the Humane Society of South Coastal Georgia.
“If you are worried about affording food for your pets during this difficult time, we are here to help,” said humane society executive director Virginia Schlegel.
“The Humane Society of South Coastal Georgia’s food bank is available to anyone in need. Due to the recommendations for social distancing, all food bank pick-ups must be scheduled.”
Appointments can be made by calling 912-264-6246.
Otherwise, shelter operations continue as normal, Hill said.
“Everything is business as usual. We do have a (personal protective equipment) code for our officers that responds to calls for service and our staff at the shelter and any visitors that request it,” Hill said. “And we follow social distancing, of course.”
Hill said the county had already acquired medical-grade disinfectant to clean the shelter but has ramped up cleaning activity in response to the COVID-19 issue.
“Our hours have not changed,” Hill said. “Our officers still provide service to calls 24 hours a day. Calls and intake have been down, so we have had some spare time to make deliveries.”
In some other parts of the country, pet owners have returned pets to shelters or outright abandoned them out of fear of getting COVID-19 from them, she said. Hill said such fears are unfounded.
The virus may be able to survive on a pet’s fur, saliva, or in their nasal passages, said Jaclyn Luckstone, a veterinarian at Island Animal Hospital, but they can’t get sick from it or spread it like humans can.
“At this point, there is no evidence that dogs or cats get sick with coronavirus,” Luckstone said. “They have their own types of coronaviruses that are completely different, and they’re just limited to dogs and cats. They don’t affect humans.”
She directed anyone who is concerned to visit the American Veterinary Medical Association’s website at avma.org, which states that “infectious disease experts and multiple international and domestic human and animal health organizations agree there is no evidence at this point to indicate that pets become ill with COVID-19 or that they spread it to other animals, including people.”
The claim is supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which also states that it has no evidence to suggest dogs or cats can be infected with COVID-19.
However, the veterinary organization notes that anyone infected with the virus is limiting contact with pets “out of an abundance of caution.”
“There’s no need for people to be afraid of their companion animal, and having a pet in the home can be a wonderful thing during this time to self-isolation,” Hill said.