"I have a lot of concerns about the coronavirus because I'm older," said Brenda Kaufman. She's 77-year-old, in the high risk group for COVID-19.
She's taking every precaution to stay healthy, like doing a Skype interview with WMAR-2 News. However, she's still worried about getting sick. Mainly because she won't know what will happen to her pets if she has to go to the hospital.
"I know people are the big thing but pets haven't been mentioned!" Kaufman said.
Kaufman has five dogs she loves dearly. WMAR-2 News' Erin MacPherson asked her via Skype if she would go to the hospital if she got sick and leave her animals home.
She answered and said, "Not if I could help. If I had someone that could come in, which I’m trying to build up, then I could leave but otherwise I don’t know what I would do." She added. "The choice is heart wrenching, either you get out and do what you need to do or you stay with your pets and some people don’t have any other option."
Jen Brause from BARCS, the largest shelter in Maryland, said they will take pets if it's an absolute emergency but it's really a last case scenario. She's encouraging pet owners to prepare now.
"They really need to think through a plan of what would we do. Can someone take our animal? And if they need additional resources, need more support then they need to call us and we’ll do what we can to support them as well," said Brause. "I'm hoping people have plans a head of time to be able to keep their pet at their home and continue care there in some way. We know that’s not gonna be reality for everyone so therefore we will need to take in those animals and we will have a separate room to quarantine them."
That's why she's trying to free up as much space as possible at their shelter by trying to get as many animals adopted as possible.
"Right now we’re in the phase of doing appointment style to try to manage what we have and try to keep getting animals placed and take in only emergency cases that need to come in that just don’t have other options," said Brause.
Right now, they're asking for certain donations. They can't accept used towels or blankets like normal because of the coronavirus concerns.
They are collecting box top lids since they use those as litter boxes for the cats. If you have any of those you can leave them outside of the shelter. Monetary donations are always appreciated as well since they had to cancel all their fundraisers, which they rely on to keep their doors open.
"Unfortunately we’re not the kind of business that can just shut down because we have living animals here that need our care everyday, medical care, feeding and cleaning so we do always have to have essential personnel," said Kaufman.
She said they have limited their staff to make sure they're practicing social distancing and have different workers in different spaces.
"Everyday our situation in the shelter changes, I would ask folks to call ahead of time. If they wanna help out let us know and call us," said Brause.
She said they can really use all the help they can get right now, so they can intern help others. Kaufman, on the other hand, thinks help should come from a higher level.
"The federal government is supposed to be doing something and maybe it comes down to the Maryland level and even to the county but we need something in place," said Kaufman.
She said the Pets Acts of 2006 should be implemented. The Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act was put into effect after Hurricane Katrina.
"We need to implement the Pets Act all across America right now so that people with the coronavirus who need to go in the hospital know they’re gonna have somebody that can take their pets and keep them safe," said Kaufman. She added, "the Pets Act is to allow the people to get taken care of, if they know their pets are gonna be taken care of."
The law states FEMA would help people with their household pets prior to, during or following a major disaster or emergency. The coronavirus is a pandemic which many would constitute as an emergency.
WMAR-2 News reached out to FEMA, the Governor's Office and Maryland Emergency Management to see if this would be implemented and how or if there's another resource people can lean on.
A spokesperson from FEMA reached out to WMAR-2 News and stated it's up to local emergency management organizations to put plans in place for each area. We are still waiting for a response from Maryland Emergency Management.
A spokesperson from Maryland Emergency Management responded to WMAR-2 News about the Pets Act of 2006 stating: "The Pets act is centered around pet accessibility for shelters in the event of evacuations. Given the nature of this COVID-19 event, we do not anticipate conducting any sheltering activities as that would go against the social distancing guidance."