Pet Owners: Here Are the Reopening Updates That Affect Your Furry Friend

If you've been counting down the days until your pet can get a bath and a haircut, we've got good news for you.

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As you’re reading through the pages and pages of documents released with Gov. Baker’s official, four-phase plan to reopen Massachusetts, you may have missed something—how the reopening plan is going to affect your pet. Over the past couple of months, our dogs and cats have graciously allowed us to stay home with them, bravely continued doing cute things during these dark times—and may have gotten a little scruffy in the process. Can you finally take your good boy to the groomer? Do animals have to social distance? And have we figured out if cats and dogs can get COVID yet? We scanned the new guidelines (and the CDC’s website) to find the answers to these pressing questions and more.

I haven’t seen my dog’s eyes in weeks. When can I take her in to the groomer?

Pet grooming services are officially permitted to reopen May 25 (the same day you’ll be allowed to get your hair cut, too).

How has COVID changed the grooming experience?

From a client perspective, not too much will change. Groomers are encouraged to communicate with customers via telephone or video chat to avoid in-person conversations as much as possible. When it comes time for your appointment, you will not be allowed to accompany your pet into the grooming facility—pets must be dropped off curbside. Groomers must also supply leashes to guide pets inside instead of taking your leash.

How will groomers ensure that their salons are hygienic?

Like any industry in Massachusetts now, there’s a whole list of safety standards groomers now have to follow. Groomers must of course wear mask and physically distance themselves from each other and from clients. They must wash their hands frequently and disinfect all tools, like shears, combs, brushes, and shampoo bowls, between customers. Most importantly, they must ask all pet owners prior to accepting their pets if anyone in their households has COVID-19. Pets coming from households where there is a confirmed or suspected case will not be allowed.

This all sounds reasonable. Can’t wait to get Fido a trim and parade him around the dog park!

Well, wait a second. While dog walking and dog park visits are allowed, don’t forget to proceed with caution. A sweeping update to the guidelines surrounding parks, open space, and outdoor education programs the state released includes some explicit guidelines for dog owners. Remember, dogs have to socially distance too—dogs that are not part of the same household should be kept at least six feet apart and avoid interacting with other dogs and people from other households. Additionally, toys, treats, and water bowls should not be shared by dogs from separate households, and you should always bring your own waste bags when you’re venturing out for a walk.

Wait: Can pets even catch COVID?

Jury’s still out on that one. The CDC reports that it is aware of a “small number of pets worldwide, including cats and dogs,” that are reported to be infected with the coronavirus. The risk of animals spreading COVID-19 to humans is still considered to be low; however there are “some situations” in which the virus might be transferred from a pet to an owner. Thus, the CDC advises that pets follow the same rules that humans must follow—they shouldn’t interact with anyone outside the household, and if someone in the household falls ill, they should be isolated away from pets as well as humans.