Curb your dog is taking on a whole new meaning during the coronavirus pandemic. Pet owners are finding that social distancing extends to the veterinarian as animal clinics are asking their clients to not come inside with their fur babies.
“We’re asking that clients remain in their vehicles and send a nurse out to collect the pet, get their history and listen to the complaint,” explains Dr. Jennifer Frione at Lakeside Animal Hospital in Plantation. “The whole idea is to limit contact between person to person.”
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis issued a stay-home executive order Wednesday that mentioned pets and vets, calling veterinarians and pet stores “essential” and adding during a press conference, “We understand we need to be looking out for our pets."
Boynton Beach’s JoAnne Novak would agree with that. She and her husband Richard have four rescue dogs, one of which needed to see a veterinarian this past weekend for an eye problem.
“We say we have four kids with 16 legs,” Novak says. “One is blind. One is a rescue out of a South Korea meat market. They are all interesting rescues, a little bit on the older side.”
The retiree says that she was glad to have received emails from her regular vet, Dr. Benjamin Carter at the Animal House Veterinary Center in Delray Beach, spelling out the new safety practices and clinic sterilization they were implementing. A few days later she got a followup email laying out the protocols for curbside service.
“It created enormous peace of mind,” Novak says. “This is a very essential service if you are a pet parent. I really want to stress how we were really appreciative we could bring our pets to Dr. Carter and have them seen in a very safe way, gloves, masks, everything.”
At the new state-of-the-art Lois Pope Pet Clinic at Boca Raton’s Tri County Animal Rescue, the staff has set up a tent out front for human companians to sign-in, fill out paperwork and give the veterinarian staff a description of the problem. But that’s not the only precautions they are taking.
“We are also concerned about any parasites that people might have on their shoes,” says Suzi Goldsmith, the executive director of the no-kill nonprofit animal shelter she founded in 1996. “Our own vet staff, they put their foot in a [shoe sanitizing bath] area filled with ammonia and bleach with...some water. Then they put on booties.”
Goldsmith says, “We’re trying to be as careful as we possibly can with masks, gloves, gowns, you know, surgical robes. They’re made of paper, but each time they go out, they put on a new gown.”
Despite not being able to accompany their dog or cat inside the clinics, veterinarians say that pet companions are comfortable with the new stay-outside set-up.
“People love it actually,” says Dr. Benjamin Carter of Animal House Veterinary Center in Delray Beach. A lot of people are thanking us for continuing to provide them with the same service we always have. All the feedback has been more than positive."
But he does add that the self-isolating movement has caused specific health issues for pets, namely overindulgence.
“We see a lot more vomiting and diarrhea,” he explains. “People are home and they’re spending so much more time with their pets. And they think, ‘My pet deserves a treat. Here, have some of my sandwich, or whatever.’ There’s definitely been an uptick in that.”
And there has been opportunity as well. Lakeside Animal Hospital has started a concierge service to deliver pet medications and food to the door of their clients, who may not be able to leave their home. They will also pick up and return a pet who needs to see a vet.
“We had to develop that very quickly,” says Frione. “My team was very helpful in making that work. They are very optimistic.”
And Tri County Animal Rescue has seen an outpouring of gratitude from people who have very recently adopted a pet.
“We’ve had all ages, from young people to senior citizens,” adds Goldsmith. “And they are thrilled. They call us up and send in pictures and they say, ‘You’ve made us so happy,’ especially those that are single.”