Saturday, 16 May 2020

COVID-19 and your pet: Ontario veterinary and pet services reopening

COVID-19 and your pet: What Ontario's 'stage one' reopening plan means for veterinary care and pet services



COVID-19 and your pet: What Ontario's 'stage one' reopening plan means for veterinary care and pet services



After yesterday's press briefing by Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced the changes to restrictions on veterinary care, pet grooming, and animal boarding, many animal hospitals and pet service telephones rang off the hook. The community is ready to get back to business as usual when it comes to their pets. There's just one problem: most pet services are not ready. They were watching at the same time as the general public.



For those who only caught snippets of the news, here is some information to clarify the statement about Ontario businesses reopening. Each individual business type addressed in stage one reopening has the power to make their own choice if and how they reopen. They can make changes when they are ready and public health regulations are still a top priority. Businesses reopening can still offer curbside service and not allow customers into their building- in fact, some businesses can only reopen if they have the ability to offer curbside service. No businesses are being forced or are required to reopen or change how they provide their services. These businesses are permitted to open or expand their services. If COVID-19 positive diagnoses spike and trends show things are getting worse, all of this could be taken away. How does stage one of the Ontario business reopening affect your pet?





COVID-19 and your pet: What Ontario's 'stage one' reopening plan means for veterinary care and pet services



Off-leash dog parks in Ontario reopening


As of Tuesday, May 19 at 9:00 am, off-leash dog parks in Ontario will be allowed to open to the public. Most dog parks are big enough to allow people to follow the physical distancing requirements, so the risks are lower as long as too many people don't visit the park at the same time. Some off-leash dog parks are keeping their parking lots closed. Again, if and how these parks will reopen is up to the person or organization running the park. There are no guarantees when it comes to reopening because there are no guarantees when it comes to safety during the COVID-19 crisis. It's recommended that all people in public settings outdoors wear a face mask. 



COVID-19 and your pet: What Ontario's 'stage one' reopening plan means for veterinary care and pet services


Veterinary clinics in Ontario able to offer regular care appointments


Veterinary services have been restricted to urgent care visits only as part of the COVID-19 regulations, but on May 19th that will change. Vet clinics will be allowed to offer routine care like vaccines, preventative medicine, and spay and neuter surgeries by appointment. Throughout all of this, vet clinics have had to triage patients to determine how critical the case is before booking the appointment. They had to define what urgent care meant for their practice and rely on expert advice to navigate what it meant to safely practice veterinary medicine during a pandemic. Many veterinary clinics introduced telemedicine to be able to offer care to more patients. Some clinics had to reduce office hours, amounts of appointments they could book in a day, and some clinics had to lay off staff. 



Many of these clinics have waiting lists for routine appointments a mile long. They are not staffed to go back to business as usual at the drop of a surgical cap- nor do they have to. They get to make changes at their own pace, only when they're ready. My best advice is to let veterinary clinics digest the information they were just given and formulate a plan. Only call them if you require urgent care until they announce to you that they're ready to start scheduling routine appointments. Vaccines are important, but in the global (pandemic) scheme of things, your pet's annual visit can wait. 



COVID-19 and your pet: What Ontario's 'stage one' reopening plan means for veterinary care and pet services


Pet services in Ontario able to resume business


These other pet-related services in Ontario will be able to resume business on May 19th:


  • Pet grooming services
  • Pet sitting services
  • Dog walking services
  • Pet training services
  • Training and provision of service animals
  • Animal boarding services

Just to clarify, the same thing goes for these services- they can reopen only when they are ready. The government and health and safety associations have released more than 90 safety guidance documents to assist employers with these stage one changes. This is a guide to reopening, but ultimately businesses can choose to continue with restrictions they already have in place. 


Public health recommendations on flattening the curve have not changed. Wash your hands well and often. Physical distancing is more important than ever now that Ontario is loosening restrictions. The use of a face-mask in public places is recommended. Only leave your home for essential trips. Work from home as much as you can.


COVID-19 and your pet: What Ontario's 'stage one' reopening plan means for veterinary care and pet services


My pet needs one of these services- what should I do?


Be patient. Don't pressure these business owners to expand faster than they're comfortable with. They are going to make decisions that will keep their team and customers safe. Self-isolation has, for many, has created an island of one and it can be hard to see the bigger picture. Be empathetic and try to put yourself in their essential-worker shoes. Support their decision. The important thing is to keep everyone safe, physically, and mentally. Now is the time to make the phrase 'we're all in this together' a reality.








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COVID-19 and your pet: What Ontario's 'stage one' reopening plan means for veterinary care and pet services




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