Dakin Advises Pet Owners to Have Pandemic Plan in Place for Their Animals

SPRINGFIELD — Dakin Humane Society has recently taken in two cats and four dogs from households where people have been hospitalized with COVID-19, through its Safety Plan for Animals (SPAN) program, becoming one of the first in the first in the Commonwealth to do so.

According to Executive Director Carmine DiCenso, “in one case, a man was in his third day at the hospital before he was able to communicate with staff and tell them that he had a dog alone at his Shutesbury home. His daughter, who lives several hours away, notified us, and we worked with local law enforcement to safely remove the dog from the home and get her to Dakin. Sampa, the dog, is doing well in our care. Sadly, the man passed away within a matter of days, but he had peace of mind knowing his pet was safe and is being cared for.”

Dakin’s SPAN program was created several years ago to provide temporary shelter for pets belonging to people who were experiencing different crises, including fleeing an abusive household, losing a home due to a fire, or facing an unexpected stay in a hospital or nursing facility due to a medical problem. Now Dakin is using the program to help pets whose people are being hospitalized with COVID-19, and the organization is following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Veterinary Medical Assoc. regarding their housing. A limited number of spots are available.

In these days of the COVID-19 pandemic, people with pets, especially those who live alone, need to have plans in place for their pet’s safety should they face an unexpected hospitalization due to the virus, DiCenso said. They need to designate a friend or family member who could step in and take care of their pets if they can’t, and a backup for that person as well.

“People may think they’re not at risk because of their age or their health, but if there’s one thing we’ve seen with COVID-19, it’s that nothing is certain, and anyone can end up hospitalized and fighting this virus,” he noted. “COVID-19 is considered a human crisis, but it can also become a pet crisis in some cases. It’s always better for your pet to be able to stay home and be cared for by a friend or family member than go to a shelter.”

DiCenso added that “it’s also a good idea for anyone with a pet to have a pet-supply kit prepared. Ideally, it would have a two-week supply of pet medications, their food and bottled water, as well as food bowls, leashes, toys and comfort items, medical records, important phone numbers, and a recent photo of your pet.”