JOHNSTOWN, Pa. (WJAC) – As many are keeping their distance from family and friends right now, people are probably spending lots of time at home with their pets and may be wondering what effects the coronavirus could have on them.

Local animal health and rescue officials who are urging people to not worry about their furry friends catching and spreading the disease and most importantly, to not abandon them.

Our pets. What would we do without them? Especially while social distancing because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Every purr and every bark are reminders that our pets really are our best friends.

But sadly, Missy Lamonaca, the treasurer for Helping Hearts and Healing Tails Animal Rescue, said “we’re starting to see people dumping their animals because they’re afraid they are going to get the coronavirus from their animals.”

Dr. Johanna Vena at Cambria Veterinary Care in Johnstown says you don’t need to worry about your cats and dogs getting COVID-19.

“Thousands of samples have been done since that on dogs, cats and horses by idexx laboratories and there has been no positives so no evidence that pets can contract the disease of covid-19,” Dr. Vena said.

This rough time is affecting how work is done at vet offices. Cambria Veterinary Care has a tent outside to drop off animals for emergencies.

Animal rescues and shelters are feeling the burden too. Many forced to close to the public and running out of space.

Lamonaca fears they will see more abandonment cases.

She says a dog was recently dumped at a grooming business in Windber and more than a dozen cats and kittens were left in boxes outside of a closed animal hospital in Altoona. Lamonaca said the rescue is fostering some of the kitties from the Central PA Humane Society.

“I was angry that people weren’t looking into what actually the coronavirus is and the fact that you can’t get it from your pets. It’s sad that these animals are being left. I mean, those cats had no breathing, there were no holes or anything in those boxes. They were just shoved in those boxes and left,” Lamonaca said.

It is important to note, even though our pets can’t catch COVID-19. The CDC says they can carry germs so after handling them, it’s a good idea to practice healthy habits like washing your hands.

“They are not a very good fomite but it is possible that if the virus is on the pet’s coat, it can be transmitted to another person who contacts that pet so for that reason we do recommend if someone is ill with covid-19, they should minimize contact with their pets as much as possible and if they need to be around their pet and care for their pet, that pet should be in quarantine also,” Dr. Vena said.

If you’re getting overwhelmed with everything going on with the pandemic, Dr. Vena says just fetch an emergency plan that includes your furry friends.

“Well our pets are members of our families so they should be included in an emergency plan so we definitely want people to not hoard, but stock up on medications and foods so they don’t get in a bind if they have trouble getting those needs for their pet,” Dr. Vena said.

Use this time to throw them a bone, remember why you made them part of your family and keep caring for your pur-fect companions.

A European shorthaired kitten and this cute beagle needs love too during the pandemic!

“If you have animals, they can help reduce your stress levels so if you’re holding them, petting them,” Lamonaca said.

“It’s well documented that contact with pets is therapeutic for people with a lot of different emotional and physical problems and so this is a time where our pets are probably very important to us and they definitely can help our mood and our mental state,” Dr. Vena said.

We’ll get through this crisis together.

Lamonaca said shelters and rescues will be helping each other through this, especially with many shelters closing to the public.

With more animals coming in… You can help by fostering, adopting or donating.

Donations have gone down for Helping Hearts and Healing Tails. They really need cleaning supplies.

If you are in need, there are ways to get free pet food in our area. Lamonaca said St. Mark’s church in Johnstown has a pet food pantry so reach out to them if you’re in an emergency. You can also reach out to Helping Hearts and Healing Tails. If you can’t find pet food, she says you can feed them hamburger and chicken.

Another tip: practice social distancing when it comes to your pets and other people. Especially if that person is feeling sick.

Here is more information from the CDC about pets and coronavirus.

Here is more information about IDEXX Laboratories studies that show pets can’t get the disease.

If you take your pet to Cambria Veterinary Care, you must drive up to the tent outside and call the vet office then someone will come out and get your pet. Dr. Vena said that they are asking pet owners to use their discretion. If you pet is having a medical issue that is not urgent, they will postpone it for everyone’s safety right now. You can go get resources from Cambria Vet Care website and Pennsylvania Medical Association website.

Dr Pet MD is here for you and your pet during the Pandemic. We are open and accepting walk-ins at no extra charge. Call or click if we can help!