COVID-19: Maintaining Animal Welfare in Indian Country

Communities in Indian Country are continuing to address their own unique challenges in combatting the coronavirus. While access to basics like food and health care remain the most critical focus, it’s also important to address other concerns such as animal welfare. 

Many reservation communities are overpopulated with stray animals. In the Navajo Nation alone, its estimated there may be upward of 6,000 stray dogs and cats roaming the reservation. This can lead to hungry and injured animals and human health risks, including animal bites, rabies and the spread of diseases.

Reservation Animal Rescue (RAR), a program of PWNA, provides animal welfare services to support partners who rescue, rehabilitate and place injured or stray animals in foster or forever homes. Our RAR partners receive support in various ways, including:

  • Grants to support low-cost spaying and neutering by veterinarians
  • Food and foster care kits for local rescue groups and families fostering pets
  • Incentive products to support education around proper care of animals

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), coronaviruses can cause illness in people and certain types of animals – and coronaviruses that infect animals can sometimes be spread to people. In the case of COVID-19, the first infections were linked to a live animal market overseas, but the disease is now spreading person to person. The first case of any animal testing positive for COVID-19 in the U.S. was a tiger at a New York City zoo. But the CDC notes, “We do not have evidence that companion animals, including pets, can spread COVID-19 to people or that they might be a source of infection in the United States.”

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) is working to support the veterinary community during the COVID-19 crisis. AVMA agrees, “It appears that dogs and cats are not readily infected with SARS-CoV-2…” However, they suggest that “until more is known about this virus, if you are ill with COVID-19 you should restrict contact with pets and other animals, just as you would restrict your contact with other people.” AVMA also suggests having a 14-day store of pet food and medicine on hand in case of quarantine in homes or animal shelters.

Injured and stray animals of the reservations don’t know anything about COVID-19, but they are still hungry and in need of shelter. Unfortunately, the supplies we need to deliver to animal care groups across the Northern Plains and Southwest reservations are extremely limited right now. Donations to RAR are critical to ensure continued aid to everyone in the communities we serve, including our four-legged friends. Please consider making a donation to RAR today.

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