Brockton-area veterinarians turn to drive-up pet intake in face of coronavirus

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To reduce the spread of the virus, some local veterinary practices are meeting owners and pets outside and keeping their buildings closed. Others are practicing social distancing and focusing on cleaning.

Local veterinarians are used to dealing with sick pets. But, in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak, it’s not the pets they are worried about but their potentially sick owners.

Many Brockton-area animal health clinics and hospitals have changed how they operate, practicing social distancing and limiting contact with pet owners, so they can continue to treat their furry friends.

“So far everyone is being hugely grateful and appreciative,” said Alberto L. Fernandez, medical director of New England Animal Medical Center in West Bridgewater. “We’re here for the community and the animals that need help.”

Animals can get sick, but not because of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. The World Health Organization says there is no evidence that cats or dogs have become ill from the virus or can infect humans or other animals.

At the end of February, a dog in Hong Kong whose owner tested positive for COVID-19 had “weak positive” results from the virus, but didn’t show clinical signs of the disease, according to a WHO report.

Later tests showed the dog was negative for the disease. The 17-year-old Pomeranian died Monday, the South China Morning Post reported.

This news story first appeared on The Enterprise newspaper on March 20th, 2020. Written by Nina Corpuz. Staff writer Mina Corpuz can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @mlcorpuz

But it’s not pets with COVID-19 that animal hospitals and clinics are worried about, but their human owners.

Some facilities including New England Animal Medical Center have opted to meet owners and their pets at their cars and are having people wait while their pets are taken inside for an exam or treatment. Afterward, the animal is brought back and a veterinarian will call to review the visit and any concerns.

Karen Martin, administrator for the center, said it was a struggle at the beginning of the week when it switched to a closed building and staff started meeting people at their cars. Each day that has gone by has made it a smoother transition, she said.

Raynham Veterinary Hospital is operating similarly and has a veterinary technician go outside to the pet owner’s car to take their pet for an exam, surgery, boarding or grooming, according to a notice posted on its website.

East Bridgewater Animal Clinic, whose staff members are meeting owners and pets outside, is also using video conferencing through Skype for consults to help determine if a pet needs to come to the clinic.

“We want to ensure our clients that we are taking the necessary measures to continue to offer the needed medical care for your furry family members throughout this period of time while protecting the health and safety of you, your family, and our staff,” the clinic wrote on its website.

Brockton Animal Hospital is still allowing pet owners inside, but is limiting the number of people in its waiting room, said hospital administrator Sandra Tanen.

“We’re doing everything to make sure social distancing is in place and there is as little touching as possible,” she said.

The hospital is also trying to prioritize emergency situations and necessities like routine vaccinations, she said.

Local animal health centers have found other ways to limit contact with people.

Raynham Veterinary Hospital and New England Animal Medical Center are offering curbside pickup for pet medications or food, instead of having owners come inside.

Clients at East Bridgewater Animal Clinic can receive their pet’s food and medications from staff at the curb, but there is also home delivery available for residents who can’t leave their houses, according to the clinic’s website.

In Raynham, the hospital is taking payment over the phone by a credit card. Cash and check are only accepted if using a card isn’t possible, according to its website.

Measures that local animal hospitals and clinics are taking echo guidelines from the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Local animal shelters are also looking at ways to tweak operations to stay open during the coronavirus outbreak.

The Animal Protection Center of Southeastern Massachusetts in Brockton has moved to appointments for adoptions to help reduce foot traffic, said shelter Director Kim Heise.

For adoptions, people can see information about the animals at the center’s website or through its Facebook page and can call to set up a time to meet a specific animal.

APCSM wants to continue helping animals, Heise said, but doesn’t have the staff capacity to do some things, like animal surrenders.

She said staff has split into two groups that are rotating between being at the shelter and working from home.

If the shelter needs to close, she said the center has foster homes on standby.

“We’re taking it day by day and doing the best we can,” Heise said.

This news story first appeared on The Enterprise newspaper on March 20th, 2020. Written by Nina Corpuz. Staff writer Mina Corpuz can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @mlcorpuz