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.

This guidance sets out rules you need to follow from 17 May.

A new coronavirus (COVID-19) variant is spreading in some parts of England. There may be additional advice for your area. Find out what you need to do.

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.

There is limited evidence available at present, however it 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

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 you should prevent contact between your ferret and either ferrets or people from other households.

If you’re self-isolating

If you develop symptoms of COVID-19, stay at home and self-isolate immediately. If you have a positive test result but do not have symptoms, stay at home and self-isolate as soon as you receive the results. Your household needs to isolate too. See the guidance for households with a possible or confirmed coronavirus infection.

You should avoid contact such as kissing or cuddling your animal.

You should make a plan for the care and welfare of your animal or livestock 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 your animal 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 any animals
  • keep 2 metres away from anyone who is not in your household or support bubble, where possible, or 1 metre with extra precautions in place (such as wearing face coverings) if you cannot stay 2 metres apart - this includes when you hand the animal over to someone else

This advice applies to private animal keepers and farm businesses.

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 animal to be groomed.

Where possible, you should contact the groomer in advance to make an appointment.

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 visiting or collecting a pet, you can meet up indoors with those outside of your household, either in a group of:

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

There is an exemption to these limits where the visit or collection 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, 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 alone, with your household (including support bubble, if eligible), or with friends and family you do not live with. Outdoor gatherings must not exceed 30 people unless covered under an exemption.

If you’re meeting friends and family, you can make a personal choice on whether to keep your distance from them, but you should still be cautious. See the guidance on meeting friends and family.

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 anyone outside your household or support bubble.

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.

Horses, livestock and other animals

At sites where this activity is allowed, you may ride your horse or walk your animals:

  • indoors in groups of up to 6 people from different households or a larger group of no more than 2 households
  • outdoors with up to 30 people

You should continue to minimise the number of people you meet within a short period of time to limit the risk of spreading COVID-19.

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

Sports facilities, such as indoor and outdoor riding arenas may now open.

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.

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. 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. If you cannot stay 2 metres apart, stay 1 metre away with extra precautions (such as wearing face coverings).

Contact

If you have any queries, email the Animal and Plant Health Agency (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 18 May 2021 + show all updates
  1. Updated with what you can and cannot do from 17 May.

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

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

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

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

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

  7. Updated with guidance on rules in Tier 4.

  8. Updated with guidance from 2 December 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

  14. 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.

  15. First published.