Practices are “essential businesses,” animal associations argue

WSAVA, AVMA, and others are among the groups urging governing bodies to support veterinary care amid the COVID-19 pandemic

Veterinary practices should be allowed to continue providing patient care in the event nonessential businesses are forced to close their doors because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

This is according to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA).

The organizations are calling on government authorities to ensure veterinary clinics and hospitals are classified as “essential businesses” and able to remain operational in cases where nonessential facilities are required to close during the pandemic.

Veterinary teams provide vital animal care and serve as trusted members of the local community in disaster situations, AVMA said in a released statement.

“In some localities, such as San Francisco, and states like Maryland and Pennsylvania, veterinary practices are appropriately considered ‘essential businesses,’” the association continued. “They recognize the services veterinary teams provide are critical to animal and public health, and thereby specifically designate veterinary practices as ‘essential businesses,’ in line with other health-care providers, supermarkets, and pharmacies.”

These critical services, AVMA says, include:

  • surveillance of diseases deemed reportable by state and federal governments, including zoonotic diseases, such as rabies, influenza, and Lyme disease;
  • issuing certificates of veterinary inspection required for the movement of animals between states and countries, including those entering the food supply;
  • providing medical care for critically ill and injured animals (including service and therapy animals, and endangered species living in wildlife facilities); and
  • overseeing the care of laboratory animals, which are critical to research that leads to the development of pharmaceuticals and biologics, including vaccines currently being developed to combat COVID-19.

“We urge lawmakers and state executives to protect and preserve public health and ensure veterinary practices are clearly stated to be ‘essential businesses’ and thereby allowed to continue to provide critical services in our communities,” AVMA says.

WSAVA agrees, adding the forced closure of clinics will jeopardize the welfare of “countless” animals, many of which are companions to people who are at risk of suffering increased stress and loneliness because of the need to self-isolate.

“We fully support the risk mitigation measures being introduced as part of the global fight against COVID-19, but we are concerned at reports from some of our members that they have been asked to close their doors,” says WSAVA president, Shane Ryan, BVSc, MVS, CertVetAcupuncture, GradDipAnimChiro, MChiroSc, MRCVS. “Veterinarians and their teams deliver essential medical care for animals, ensure animal health and welfare, and support the human/companion animal bond by protecting these deep and important relationships.”

In addition, the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC) urges individuals and businesses to sign an open letter to all state and government officials, stating pet stores are also essential and, like clinics, should be exempt from mandatory closures.

“Pet stores supply nearly one-third of all dog and cat food needed by the pet-owning population; that percentage is greatly increased for food required by smaller pets like small mammals, reptiles and fish,” PIJAC says. “Grocery stores that may be allowed to remain open generally only offer basic pet food options and don’t have the specialized food, supplements, and even medication required to maintain the health of millions of pets and animals nationwide.”

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