Pet animals will also have to undergo mandatory quarantine

An official in full PPE escorting a pet dog to the animal quarantine facility

In addition pet owners will have to pay for food and other necessary amenities of the pet during the quarantine

Lhakpa Tshering

In April this year, a pet dog named Dashohad to be put under quarantine although tested negative by polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) after its owner tested positive for Covid-19 in Thimphu.

Although there is no evidence that virus from other animals infects humans, to reduce the potential spread of coronavirus into the community, all imported animals with exception of pet dogs and cats have to undergo mandatory quarantine at the designated quarantine facility.

Considering the change in virus transmission dynamics with the developing facts on the epidemiology, a standard operating procedure (SOP) on quarantining of pet animals exposed to SARS-CoV-2 approved by the technical advisory group (TAG) for Covid-19 and the department of livestock prepared by the national center for animal health.

“Until the availability of strong scientific evidence, it is always safe to practice preventive measures by quarantining pet animals that are living with the owners who are Covid-19 positive, traveling from high-risk areas and primary contacts of the case,” the official document reads.

It includes pet animals fulfilling the case definition of primary contacts – same as in human case – of Covid-19 positive owners, imported and pet animals accompanying individuals traveling from high risk to low-risk areas in the country.

However, the pet movement permit is issued only for unavoidable circumstances for travelers from high to low-risk areas in the country for short duration or temporary visits. And issuing the permit has been temporarily suspended until further notice.

Quarantine and surveillance

To help people and pets stay safe, the owners of the pets have the quarantine options for home and facility quarantine based on the circumstances presented at that time. But the pet owners have to abide by the responsibilities described in the document.

If the pet owner is quarantined in a single-occupancy facility, the pet may be allowed to stay with the owner. However, if the owner has to be isolated, the pet has to be transferred to facility quarantine.

While the pet is home quarantined, sample collection and veterinary care will apply similarly to that of facility quarantine. But while in the home quarantine, care and feeding of the pet shall be the responsibility of the pet owner.

The pet will be quarantined for 21 days for the imported pet animals even if the test result comes negative. And the 7-day quarantine will be applied for those pet animals accompanying individuals traveling from high to low-risk areas even if the test result is negative.

In case the test result comes positive, the pet will be moved to an isolation facility and the duration of isolation or quarantine would be extended beyond 7 or 21 days until a negative test result is declared.

During the quarantine period, the pet animal must be provided with basic amenities while the owners have to bear the cost of the pet food.

The pet animals’ quarantine will be done only in designated animal quarantine stations – Paro, SamdrupJongkhar, Samtse, Gelephu, Nganglam, and Phuentsholing – cordoned off with barricades to restrict access by other animals (domestic or wild) or unauthorized personnel.

Three personnel of Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority (BAFRA) and animal health staff including a cleaner will be assigned to each cohort at the designated pet animal quarantine facility.

This is to provide the necessary logistical support, medical and testing support in compliance with the quarantine requirements.

The document describes that a veterinary laboratory technician with full personal protective equipment (PPE) will sample the animal (deep nasal) and transports the sample to a designated testing facility on the arrival day. They will sample again the animal on the seventh day and after 24 hours before release for in-country movement.

But they will sample the pet animals accompanying individuals coming from other countries on arrival followed by three times every week until 24 hours before its release.

Apart from the scheduled testing, quarantined pet animals will be tested anytime they develop symptoms. “If the test report is positive by RT-PCR, the pet animal shall be moved to isolation in a designated isolation facility,” reads the document.

If the animal is negative on the RT-PCR test, the animal will be released after the completion of the quarantine period. “Quarantine management staff shall hand over the pet to the owner or the representative to the owner.”

Any pet owners not complying and failing to cooperate will be liable for the offense of a criminal nuisance as per section 410 of the Penal Code (Amendment) Act, 2011 and the offense of obstruction of public service as per section 424 of the Penal Code, 2004.

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