COVID-19 and animal welfare in Alert Level 4

Information about caring for pets and livestock during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Contact with animals

Currently, there is no evidence animals (pets or livestock) can spread COVID-19.

Infectious disease experts and international organisations indicate there is no evidence to suggest that pet dogs or cats can be a source of infection; including spreading COVID-19 to people. 

However, it’s good practice to wash your hands before and after interacting with animals. 

International advice is that, as a precautionary measure, people sick with COVID-19 should avoid contact with pets and other animals, as they would with people.

MPI’s position is that currently there is no need for animals to be quarantined. This is based on international advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States and the World Organisation for Animal Health (the OIE).

However, where there is COVID-19 in a household, we recommend animals are not moved off the property. You can also check for new updates on the CDC's website.

Frequently asked questions on COVID-19 – CDC

Questions and answers on COVID-19 – OIE

Coronavirus disease 2019 – CDC

If your pet or service animal needs to go to the veterinarian

If you are not sick with COVID-19 or another communicable disease like the flu or a cold, call your veterinarian to make an appointment as you normally would.

If you are sick with COVID-19 or another disease, you should stay at home and minimise contact with others until you are well. Any non-urgent pet appointments should be rescheduled.

If your animal’s situation is urgent and you have COVID-19, or suspect you might, call your veterinarian to determine how to best ensure your pet or service animal can be appropriately cared for while minimizing risks of transmitting COVID-19 to other people.

Do not take your animal to a veterinary clinic until you have contacted your veterinarian.

Animal welfare - COVID-19   

Walking dogs

You can continue to walk your dog under any of the COVID-19 Alert Levels.

Some key points to follow are:

  • Act like you have COVID-19. Every move you make could be a risk to someone else.
  • Maintain a distance of at least 2 metres from other people, and don’t invite anyone who isn’t already in your self-isolation "bubble" to join you.
  • If at all possible, walk from your house, rather than driving to a walking area. If it is essential to drive to a walking area (e.g. you live on a rural road) - keep it local.
  • Walk your dog on a leash. Keeping them on a leash minimises the chance of needing to break your "bubble" to retrieve your pet, as well as the risk of accidents. Don’t do anything that may require help if you or your dog end up getting into trouble.

If someone in the household has COVID-19, then any dogs in the household should not be exercised off the property.

Safely walking your dog

Horses

Visiting your horses

Travel to care for your animals, including horses, is allowed. This includes providing your animals with food, water and any other aspect that you need to provide to meet your responsibilities under the Animal Welfare Act and relevant codes of welfare.

If your horse can be cared for by the owner of the stables or grazing facility at which your horse is based, then you should stay at home. Their welfare is not at risk, and limiting people movement is the priority.

If you do leave your house to attend to your horse, take the necessary health measures, and comply with any region-specific travel measures. Travel in your private vehicle, with other members of your self-isolation group (or "bubble") only. Limit visits to what is essential.

Riding locally

Everyone is being encouraged not to ride in order to reduce the pressure on emergency services in case of an accident.

If you are continuing to ride, only ride your horse within the boundaries of the property where it’s kept. Don't transport your horse by float to ride somewhere else.

If your horse is based at a grazing facility or stables and the owner of the facility caring for your horse is happy to do so while we are at Alert Level 4, stay at home. 

Self-isolation - COVID-19

Caring for horses – Farriers 

The New Zealand Farriers Association have advised their members that farriers have now been added to the essential services list where their work is essential for animal welfare.

This does not mean farriers are able to commence routine work. The majority of their work can be postponed during the lockdown without compromising animal health. However, if the treatment is considered essential to maintain the welfare of the animal during the lockdown period, then a farrier should be called.

Horse owners are now able to contact their farrier directly if they require emergency hoof care or their horse has a pre-existing condition that, if not shod on the usual cycle, will cause detriment to the welfare of the horse.

Farriers should use their discretion with each individual client and their horses as to what constitutes an emergency or an essential service while we are at Alert Level 4. During treatment, both parties must practice social distancing & good hygiene to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Animal welfare - COVID-19  

Farriers need to register

We have set up a register for industries and businesses to give assurances to MPI that their processes protect workers and the public, and help to reduce the potential spread of COVID-19.

If there are 5 or more people in the business they need to register as an essential business, but where there are fewer than 5 people, they should follow the guidelines set out to keep people safe.

Essential businesses - COVID-19

If you are providing an essential animal welfare service, you can register by emailing us at info@mpi.govt.nz.

Picking up pets from Quarantine

If the quarantine facility where your animal is being held is not within your local area, it’s recommended that you ask the facility whether it’s possible to arrange prolonged accommodation for your pet for the duration of Alert Level 4. If that is not possible, you should attempt to find a boarding facility for your animal, in the vicinity of the quarantine facility.

Please note: Any movement or interactions must follow the Government’s hygiene guidelines.

Pet supplies

Pet stores can fill online and phone orders, but the stores themselves must remain closed to the public.

The definition for essential business or services excludes store sales because they are a source of COVID-19 infection risk.

Online sales for delivery of animal food and other essential products may continue. Any fulfilment centre must observe social distancing practices. Pick-ups and deliveries must be contactless. Where essential items cannot be shipped (bulky/perishable), the customer may pick up, but only by pre-arrangement and without human contact.

Veterinary practices and services within pet retail outlets follow the same requirements as veterinarians.

Pet retail outlets need to have provisions in place for staff to safely attend to any animals in store.

Bees

Travel to care for your animals, including bees, is also allowed if essential and it cannot be deferred. Managing disease and preventing starvation are vital to ensure bee health and survival. Hives can still be managed for this purpose.

If you do leave your house to attend to your bees, take the necessary health measures, and comply with any region-specific travel measures. Travel in your private vehicle, with other members of your self-isolation group (or "bubble") only.

It is recommended that non-commercial beekeepers limit any beekeeping activities outside of your home property during the period of lockdown. However, if you do have hives away from your home property and need to feed or treat them for disease, communication with landowners should be by phone. Ensure they are aware that beekeeping is an essential service, and your access is legitimate. Restrict on farm interactions with landowners to a wave.  

You should use your own equipment to reduce the risk of spreading the virus. Avoid sharing equipment with people outside of your self-isolation group.   

You should also consider what will happen should you become sick and can no longer care for your bees. If possible set up an arrangement with someone to provide hive management should you be unable to. 

MPI’s role in maintaining animal welfare during the pandemic

We have a role during emergencies to co-ordinate animal welfare services and to make sure animal welfare needs are considered. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we can help animal owners meet their animal’s needs if they (or whoever is in charge of it) cannot.

Support for animal welfare community agencies

We are aware that some community agencies are being approached by animal owners who are dealing with a range of challenges because of the pandemic.

We have collated a list of agencies that volunteer organisations can use to direct animal owners to the specific help they need.

Support for the primary industries during COVID-19

For further questions

If you have questions about animal welfare, email animal.welfare@mpi.govt.nz

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