Guidance

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

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
  • dogs
  • ferrets
  • fruit bats
  • mink
  • non-human primates
  • pangolins
  • pigs (these are less prone to catching COVID-19)
  • raccoon dogs
  • rodents
  • 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.

Pets

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:

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:

  • polecats
  • stoats
  • mink
  • 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.

Veterinary care

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:

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 20 July 2021 + show all updates
  1. Updated the guidance with what you need to do from 19 July.

  2. Updated with what you can and cannot do from 17 May.

  3. Updated with what you can and cannot do from 12 April.

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

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

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

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

  8. Updated with guidance on rules in Tier 4.

  9. Updated with guidance from 2 December 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

  15. 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.

  16. First published.