Guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): advice for people in England with animals

Advice for pet owners and livestock keepers on looking after the welfare of animals during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. This advice applies to England only.

Some of the rules on what you can and cannot do changed on 12 April. However, many restrictions remain in place. Find out what you can and cannot do.

If you, or a member of your household, have symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) you should self-isolate for 10 days.

If you’re self-isolating you should make alternative arrangements to take care of your animal’s welfare. You should ask for support from others who are not self-isolating or use professional services.

Animals with COVID-19

It is rare for an animal to contract COVID-19, and they may show only mild clinical signs and recover within a few days.

Limited evidence available at present suggests that COVID-19:

  • may pass from infected humans to certain pets such as dogs, cats and ferrets following close contact
  • does not easily pass between cats or most other pets, but this cannot be ruled out
  • may pass between ferrets and to humans based on the evidence from mink infections

Pets

In line with public health guidance, you should:

  • wash your hands before and after any contact with your pet, its food or bedding
  • not share food with your pet
  • avoid contact such as kissing or cuddling if you’re self-isolating

There is no evidence that you need to wash your pets to control the spread of COVID-19.

You should only wash or use products on your pets 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 whether testing is required.

If you own a ferret

You should isolate your ferret for 21 days if:

Isolation means avoiding contact between your ferret and either ferrets or people from other households.

If your ferret 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 tell the vet in advance that you’re self-isolating.

Animal boarding services

Where possible, you should continue to take your pet to, or collect your pet from, a boarding establishment by appointment only.

Grooming

You can take your pet to be groomed. Where possible, you should contact the groomer in advance to make an appointment.

Buying or adopting a pet

You should follow social distancing rules when buying or adopting a pet.

You may travel to visit and collect your pet before rehoming it. You should contact the seller in advance to make an appointment.

When collecting a pet from private or domestic premises, you must not mix indoors with those outside of your household. This means that any viewing or handover must take place outdoors (which might include a private garden) unless an exemption exists. For example, if you’re collecting from a licensed breeder or collecting the animal where this is reasonably necessary for work purposes.

Take extra care to make sure that the seller is legitimate by following government guidance on how to get pets responsibly. If you’re unable to view the animal in its home environment before rehoming it, you should ask for a virtual tour instead.

If your animal needs vet treatment

If your animal needs vet treatment, phone first to arrange the best way to meet their needs.

You can leave your home to access urgent veterinary services when you’re self-isolating. You should only do this if it is not possible for another person to take the animal to the vet.

Dog walking

You can walk your dog outdoors with friends and family you do not live with, either in a:

  • group of 6 (people of all ages, including children, count towards the limit of 6)
  • group of any size from up to 2 households (each household can include existing support bubbles, if eligible)

You should stay 2 metres apart from anyone outside of your household or support bubble.

If you walk your dog in areas used by other people, or with other dog handlers or people from outside your house, consider putting your dog on a lead so you can stay 2 metres away from others.

You should wash your hands before and after handling a dog.

If you’re walking dogs on behalf of someone not able to

You can walk a dog for someone who is unable to, including someone who must not leave their house because they are self-isolating.

You should wash your hands before and after handling the dog and keep 2 metres away from other people and animals, including when you hand over the dog to the owner.

If you’re self-isolating

If your dog cannot be exercised at home, you should ask someone outside of your household or support bubble to walk your dog for you, or access walking services provided by a professional.

You should notify anyone walking your dog on your behalf in advance that you’re self-isolating and arrange a no-contact service where possible.

Horses, livestock and other animals

At outdoor sites where this activity is allowed, you may ride your horse or walk your animals alone or with friends and family you do not live with, either in a:

  • group of 6 (people of all ages, including children, count towards the limit of 6)
  • group of any size from up to 2 households (each household can include existing support bubbles, if eligible)

You can take part in formally organised outdoor sports with any number of people. See the guidance for taking part in sport.

You may also access indoor sports facilities, such as indoor riding arenas, to ride your horse alone or with your household (including support bubble, if eligible).

You should stay 2 metres apart from anyone who is not in your household or support bubble where possible. If you cannot stay 2 metres apart, stay 1 metre away with extra precautions (such as wearing face coverings).

You should follow social distancing rules set out in national guidelines.

You should wash your hands before and after contact with any animals.

You should make a contingency plan for the care of your horse or livestock in case you need to self-isolate.

If you’re self-isolating

If you’re unable to care for your horse or livestock either because you’re unwell or because the animal is not kept at your home you should arrange for someone else who is not self-isolating to care for your animals. If there is no one to help you should contact your yard manager or vet. Recognised trade bodies or associations may also be able to support you.

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.

This advice also applies to private animal keepers and farm businesses.

If your horse needs attention from a farrier

A farrier may visit the premises at which you keep your horse, including where this is your private premises, when this is reasonably necessary for their work. If your horse requires attention from a farrier, you should phone the farrier for advice to best meet your horse’s needs.

You and the farrier should stay 2 metres apart and wash your hands before and after contact with the horse.

Contact

If you have any queries, email the APHA Customer Advice team customeradvice@apha.gov.uk.

For commercial transporter enquiries, email the APHA Welfare in Transport team WIT@apha.gov.uk.

Published 27 March 2020
Last updated 13 April 2021 + show all updates
  1. Updated with what you can and cannot do from 12 April.

  2. Updated with what you can and cannot do from 29 March.

  3. Updated guidance with new rules that apply from 8 March.

  4. Added guidance about contacting your vet if your pet has respiratory or digestive problems and a temperature.

  5. Updated guidance following the 4 January announcement of a national lockdown.

  6. Updated with guidance on rules in Tier 4.

  7. Updated with guidance from 2 December 2020.

  8. Updated with guidance on caring for animals during lockdown.

  9. Updated with a link to local COVID-19 alert levels.

  10. Updated with guidance on caring for animals if you're returning from abroad and need to quarantine.

  11. Updated with information about a confirmed case of COVID-19 in a cat in England.

  12. Updated guidance for people in England with pets or livestock.

  13. Updated the section under horse, livestock and other animals to clarify that you should contact your local authority if you're too ill to look after animals.

  14. First published.