Advice for pet owners, livestock and animal keepers on looking after the welfare of animals and people during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. This advice applies to England only.
Applies to England
How COVID-19 affects animals
Animals can catch SARS-CoV-2. This is the virus that causes COVID-19. It is rare, and they may show only mild clinical signs and recover within a few days. There is evidence that the following species can catch the virus that causes COVID-19:
- big cats in captivity
- domestic cats
- fruit bats
- non-human primates
- pigs (these are less prone to catching COVID-19)
- raccoon dogs
- white-tailed deer
Mink and other mammals in the Mustelinae family, such as ferrets, can also catch new variants of the virus and spread these between their own species.
There is limited evidence to suggest that COVID-19 could pass:
- from infected humans to the listed animals after close contact or sharing their equipment or airspace
- from mink to mink kept in captivity and then transfer to humans
- between animals infected by experimental testing, such as raccoon dogs, white-tailed deer and mice
- between ferrets infected by experimental testing and then transfer to humans
Animal fur can act as a carrier (fomite transmission) for the COVID-19 virus for short periods of time, in the same way as other surfaces.
In line with public health guidance, you should:
- wash your hands before and after any contact with your pet, its food or bedding - avoid hand sanitisers or wipes that may be harmful to animals
- not share food, food bowls or utensils with your pet
There is no evidence that you need to wash your pets to control the spread of COVID-19. You should only wash your pets in the usual way and use products on them that are approved for use on animals.
If you’re concerned about your pet because it has respiratory or digestive problems and a temperature, you should contact your vet who will decide if it needs to be tested.
If you own a ferret
You should isolate your ferret for 21 days if:
- you or your household are self-isolating
- you’ve brought your ferret to England from a red or amber listed country outside the Common Travel Area (UK, Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man)
Isolation means you should prevent contact between your ferret and ferrets or people from other households.
Register your ferret or other Mustelinae
If you’re a keeper in England or Wales, you should register your ferret or other mustelinae on the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) register.
You should follow separate guidance if you’re in Scotland.
A keeper of ferrets or other mustelinae is someone who takes care of them on a daily basis at work or as pets at home.
Other mustelinae include:
- hybrids of these animals
Registration is voluntary. The register provides information on how to reduce the risk of you or your animal catching COVID-19. You’ll get alerts if there is a COVID-19 outbreak among ferrets or other mustelinae.
Who to contact
If you have any questions about the GB ferret register, telephone:
- 0800 6341112 for keepers in England or Wales
- 01466 794323 for keepers in Scotland
If you’re self-isolating
This advice applies to all animal keepers.
If you develop symptoms of COVID-19, test positive or live with someone who has or might have COVID-19, follow guidance for households with possible or confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) infection.
If you have been in contact with someone who might have COVID-19, but does not live in your household, check if you need to self-isolate.
Check if you can get financial support through the Test and Trace Support Payment scheme. All local authorities can also give you advice.
If you have arrived in the UK from overseas you may also need to self-isolate.
Avoid contact with animals
If you’re self-isolating, you should not:
- kiss or cuddle an animal
- share food, food bowls or utensils
- share bedding
You should follow the COVID-19 cleaning guide to clean animal bedding and other items, such as leads or feeding bowls.
You should make a plan for the care and welfare of animals in your care, in case you need to self-isolate. You should arrange for someone else who is not self-isolating or use professional services to care for your animals. You should notify anyone caring for your animals on your behalf in advance that you’re self-isolating and arrange a no-contact service where possible.
If there is no one to help, you should contact your vet or yard manager. Recognised trade bodies or associations may also be able to support you.
If an animal in your care needs emergency veterinary care while you’re self-isolating, you can arrange to have it taken to the vet, or take it to the vet yourself where necessary. You should only do this if it is not possible for another person to take your animal to the vet. You should tell the vet in advance that you’re self-isolating.
Exercising your animal
If your animal cannot be exercised at home, you should ask someone outside of your household or support bubble to exercise your animal for you, or access exercising services provided by a professional. If you are exercising an animal on behalf of someone who is self-isolating, you should wash your hands before and after contact with it.
Working with animals
Follow the guidance for working safely during coronavirus (COVID-19).
As an employer, you should:
- complete a health and safety risk assessment that includes risks from COVID-19 and take into account any reasonable adjustments for staff and customers with disabilities
- share the assessment with your staff
Follow the guidance from the Health and Safety Executive on how to do a risk assessment during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Your risk assessment for any activity in the workplace should also consider the risk of anyone coming into contact with animals, particularly those susceptible to COVID-19. This includes visitors coming to an event. You should make plans to:
- minimise contact with animals - such as petting or handling by the general public
- prevent people with COVID-19 symptoms, or those self-isolating, from coming into contact with these animals
- ask staff or visitors to wash their hands before and after contact with animals, their food or bedding - avoid hand sanitisers or wipes that may be harmful to animals
- prevent staff or visitors from breathing, coughing or sneezing on an animal - you can ask them to consider wearing a face mask
- warn staff or visitors not to allow an animal to lick them
More information on COVID-19 and animals is available on third party websites. The advice may not be accessible to assistive technology:
- Covid-19 guidance for zoos and aquariums published by the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA)
- Guidance on working with farmed animals of species susceptible to infection published by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE)
- Coronavirus advice for animal owners published by the British Veterinary Association (BVA)
- Advice for veterinary services published by the BVA
If you have any queries, email the APHA Customer Advice team email@example.com.
For commercial transporter enquiries, email the APHA Welfare in Transport team WIT@apha.gov.uk.