Lockdown rules have been eased, with parks reopening to the public as of Wednesday. But what does this mean exactly for dog and cat owners?
As a general rule, you must continue to tread with caution.
What has changed for dog owners since easing of restrictions?
You can now walk your dog for an unlimited amount of time outdoors
You are now allowed to go out for walks several times a day
You are now allowed to visit public parks with your dog
You can now drive to a certain location to walk your dog
You can now walk dogs from different households at the same time (unless of course one of them is from an infected household)
What am I still required to do during this new stage of lockdown?
You must continue to self-isolate if you are ill
You must continue to respect social distancing rules (2 metres apart) when out and about
What recommendations should I follow during this new stage of lockdown?
Where possible, continue to walk your dog close to home
Continue to regularly wash your hands and avoid touching your face
Keep your dog on a lead: Being able to control your pet is of the utmost importance. You must ensure no strangers stroke your dog, who could carry the virus on its fur. You also want to avoid having to get too close to other owners - if your dog gets into a squabble with another dog, and you have to pull them apart, you may not be respecting a 2 metre distance between you and the other owner.
Keep your outdoor cat indoors: This is again to avoid your cat wandering off, getting stroked by strangers, and potentially bringing the virus back on its fur.
Are dog walkers working again?
Dog walkers should be able to work (almost) at full capacity. However, they are only allowed to walk your dog on a lead. If you do require a dog walker, ask that they use their own lead to walk your pooch, so as to avoid exchanging microbes.
Can I take my dog to boarding or day care facilities?
Boarding facilities have reopened, though it is unlikely that you will require boarding for your pet, with most holidays and weekends away having effectively been cancelled. However, if you are ill and need to be hospitalised, a boarding facility may be able to care for your pet while you are away. Priority is also being given to key-worker owners, so if you are a key-worker, get in touch with your boarding facility for more information about their availability and how they are being affected by the current government guidelines. You will have to make an appointment both for pick-up and drop-off, to ensure social distancing with other clients is respected at the facility. Also, be aware that if you are infected, your pet will be kept in “isolation” for three days so the virus can dissipate, and will be kept separate from others animals during the entirety of its stay.
Can I take my dog to the groomer?
Groomers have reopened, but are recommended to respond to owners’ grooming needs by phone and from a distance where possible. If absolutely necessary, you can visit a groomer by making an appointment in advance. Again, you should retain your pet’s things to make the handover process more sanitary. Be aware you may be asked to wait in your car if the grooming facility is too small to respect social distancing guidelines between you and the groomer. Your pet cannot visit a groomer if you are self-isolating or infected.
Can I get a puppy or kitten from a breeder?
If you were planning on welcoming a puppy or kitten from a breeder during this time, it may still be possible to do so. Allowances have been made for breeders to be able to transport their animals to buyers’ homes. Be aware this is only possible if you are not in an infected or self-isolating household. Apart from your pet, nothing should be exchanged between you and the breeder (e.g. dog bed). By extension, paperwork and other checks and documentation should have predominantly been completed ahead of the meeting time. If you are planning on getting a puppy or kitten, you should get in touch with your veterinary clinic for more information on how they are functioning during the lockdown. A young animal should get the necessary vaccinations and microchipping - make sure you can do this safely in the weeks following your pet’s arrival.
Can I adopt a pet from a shelter?
Rescues are still rehoming, but their usual process will be different. You should get in touch with the rescue you are planning to adopt from for more information. In most cases, it will not be possible for you to visit the shelter, or meet the animal prior to adoption. You will have to work very closely with a rehoming officer over email or the phone to find your perfect match. Shelters are being advised to have staff drop off rescue pets at their new homes where possible.
Can I go to a pet shop?
Pet shops never closed, and are therefore still open to the public. The recommendation is still to stay at home as much as possible, so make sure your visit to the shop is essential.
Can I take my pet to the vet’s?
You should call your clinic to find out more about how they are proceeding. In most cases, vet clinics function on appointment only, to make sure that social distancing rules are respected by clients and staff alike. Be aware you may be asked to wait in your car if there is not enough space inside the clinic. Veterinarians are being advised to only take in patients who need immediate care, and to put off non-urgent appointments where possible.
Can my dog resume dog training classes?
Dog training classes are not allowed because they entail a gathering of people. However, dog trainers can continue to provide advice or even classes via video calls. If absolutely necessary, you can meet with your dog trainer in an outdoor area to discuss your dog’s training one-on-one, as long as social distancing rules are respected.
Stay up to date with government guidelines to ensure you are doing what's best for you and your pet at all times. In the meantime, stay home when you can, and stay safe!