These Hamilton animal charities will take care of pets of hospitalized COVID-19 patients

If you're in hospital with COVID-19, the agencies say, they can go to your home and pick up your animal.

If you're in hospital, the agencies say, they can go to your home and pick up your animal

Captain Fuzzy Boots, a three-year-old Persian cat, will soon be available for adoption through the Ladybird Animal Sanctuary. (Ladybird Animal Sanctuary)

Two local charities are boarding pets for free for people who have to be hospitalized for COVID-19.

The Hamilton/Burlington SPCA and Zachary's Paws for Healing announced a formal program Thursday, saying they'll care for pets whose owners are being treated for coronavirus.

If pet owners are home, says local SPCA CEO Marion Emo, the best place for the animals is with the owners. But she doesn't want COVID-19 patients who should be in hospital to try to stay at home for the sake of their animals.

Right now, "we have no idea what the demand will be," Emo said. The agency nearly took in an animal recently, but at the last minute, the patient made other arrangements.

"If you're not well … we don't want the care for your pet to be a barrier or a source of increased anxiety for you."

Health-care workers will make referrals to the program, Emo said. If necessary, volunteers will fetch the animal from the patient's home while wearing personal protective equipment.

There's no evidence right now, Emo said, that COVID-19 can be spread from a pet to another person. 

The pets will be boarded for as long as two weeks at either a Zachary's Paws for Healing foster home, or at the SPCA shelter on Dartnall Road. Cats, dogs, birds and small animals all qualify.

Donna Jenkins, Zachary's Paws for Healing founder, said in March that her agency already fosters the pets of people in hospital. It also has a program, in non-pandemic times, that takes pets to visit their ailing owners in hospital.

"We're ready as usual and can be counted on to help patients' pets," she said in a media release.

Jax, a Chihuahua mix, will be available for adoption soon through Ladybird Animal Sanctuary. (Ladybird Animal Sanctuary)

Emo urges pet owners to have plans in place in case they get ill.

That includes having two weeks of pet food and medications on hand. She also advises that people have an extra key for a prospective caretaker, and to write down specific feeding and medication instructions, including vaccination status and veterinarian contact info. 

Pet owners should still try to make their usual plans with friends, families or neighbours if they'll be away from home, the agencies said.

If that's not possible, health-care staff can email Michelle Macnab at mmacnab@hbspca.com and call Brian Judson at 289-682-3171.

Brandi, a 10-year-old cat, is one of several animals up for adoption through the Hamilton/Burlington SPCA. (Hamilton/Burlington SPCA)

Niagara has a similar program called PETS through Fido Niagara and the Lincoln County Humane Society, as well as Niagara EMS and the health unit. That program also needs a referral from a health-care provider. 

"As a deemed essential service in Niagara, we have freed our shelter's capacity in order to step up and do our part to help our community," said Kevin Strooband, Lincoln County Humane Society executive director, in a media release this week. The agency has also posted an online form pet owners can use. 

Health-care workers in Niagara can call 905-682-0767.

Emo said the Hamilton/Burlington SPCA is working out how to do adoptions during the COVID-19 lockdown. There are animals who'll be ready to be adopted soon, she said.

"Like many shelters, we're exploring how can we do adoptions with no contact, or minimal contact," she said. "We're currently looking at what that model will look like."


Samantha Craggs is a CBC News reporter based in Hamilton, Ont. She has a particular interest in politics and social justice stories, and tweets live from Hamilton city hall. Follow her on Twitter at @SamCraggsCBC, or email her at samantha.craggs@cbc.ca