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Keeping our best friends safe during lockdown

Inspector Todd Southall shares a moment with a future dog team member. Image: New Zealand Police.

There’s plenty of information about keeping ourselves and those in our bubble safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, but what about our furry friends? Including Police dogs?

They’re being well looked after, says national police dogs coordinator Inspector Todd Southall.

While there’s no international evidence that dogs and cats can infect humans with coronavirus, all dog teams, foster families and partner agencies have been advised to follow the standard precautions including hand-washing and physical distancing, and to keep dogs on lead in public places.

“It’s always a good idea to wash your hands with soap and water after contact with pets,” Todd says.

“We know that COVID-19 is mainly spread through droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or speaks, so cleaning your hands frequently and thoroughly after handling dogs, their food, waste or supplies is essential.

“We’re reinforcing that message to our dog teams and fosterers, as well as providing advice on particular scenarios.”

Todd stresses there is no evidence that dogs can transmit the disease, as well as noting that two reported cases in Hong Kong were the pets of an infected man. It’s thought he shed the virus onto their fur.

Had they been patted by others soon after contamination it is possible those people could have become infected. Against that, however, is the fact the virus is susceptible to drying, and the UV radiation in sunlight, so any virus present on the fur of a contaminated dog was likely to decline rapidly, along with the risk of infection.

But just in case Todd has shared a detailed protocol for cleaning dogs contaminated by someone with or suspected of COVID-19 and another for their equipment, quarters and dog team vehicles.

“Our dog teams are working as normal around the country over this lockdown period. They are very aware of the importance of maintaining high cleaning standards for themselves and their dogs.”

Then there’s their humans. While Todd’s hoping dog-handlers or carers don’t get coronavirus, there’s also detailed advice on how to treat dogs if mum, dad or a fosterer goes into self-isolation.

Meanwhile dogs have to be exercised, fed and watered. “Just like us, dogs will benefit from both physical and mental exercise during lockdown,” he says.

“And if you are doing this in a public place, where there are other people or dogs, it must be done on a lead at all times. You should also prevent your dog interacting with any other person or dog, and adhere to the two-metre distancing rule “

And does Todd have any plans for a big canine celebration when it’s all over? No celebration, just relief when it’s all over, he says.

“Take care, look after each other, and see you on the other side of all this.”

Police Ten One Magazine.

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