Calls for new COVID-19 pet quarantine measures

By Yang Wanli | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2022-01-11 08:57
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Two dogs wait to be treated at the Beijing Guanshang Animal Hospital in November. WANG JING/CHINA DAILY

Campaigners have praised regulations that allow animals to be isolated with their owners and are now calling for further regulations. Yang Wanli reports.

The ongoing COVID-19 epidemic has raised questions about the role played by relationships and interactions between humans and animals in the context of widespread social distancing and isolation measures.

Recently, a report about a pet cat in Chengdu, capital of the southwestern province of Sichuan, brought the topic into the spotlight.

While its owner was in quarantine, the animal was provided with food, water and a clean litter box after undergoing a nucleic acid test at its home.

Staff members from the local center for disease control and prevention, disinfection experts and police officers were dispatched to the house along with other medical workers, according to Red Star News, a media outlet in Sichuan.

Realizing that the cat would not be accustomed to nucleic acid testing, the staff asked an experienced examiner to handle it.

While the home was being disinfected, the feline was temporarily placed in a pet cage and taken outside to keep it away from its owner's rooms during cleaning and ventilation procedures.

According to statements from the World Health Organization, pets can be in close contact with the novel coronavirus, and there is currently no evidence to suggest that cats and dogs can transmit it to humans.

At present, China's Animal Epidemic Prevention Law and the Infectious Disease Prevention and Control Law stipulate culling aimed at wild animals, livestock and poultry, but not pets.

A lack of regulations about how to treat pets during the epidemic has led to public discussion of recent news reports about an epidemic control worker in the eastern province of Jiangxi who culled a pet dog while its owner was in quarantine.

The worker was punished and transferred to another job, and he was also urged to apologize to the dog owner, according to a notice released by local authorities. The owner expressed understanding toward the man and also for the anti-epidemic measures, the notice said.

"We have no national standards for treating pets in the epidemic, and the worker took the action with the aim of preventing the spread of the virus," said Yang Dengfeng, a professor with the School of Law at Southeast University in Nanjing, Jiangsu province.

"However, putting aside medical research on whether pets can spread the virus, it is improper to cull a pet without informing the owner. The staff member should have sought legal advice and used reasonable behavior despite the pressure of work," he said.

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