Officials from the pet industry’s big-box retailers are addressing customers’ concerns about the coronavirus (COVID-19), which the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a pandemic last week.
Pet retailers, such as PetSmart and Petco, both posted statements about the measures they are taking in stores to protect and help their customers.
"We understand the growing concern surrounding [COVID-19] across our communities, and our hearts go out to all those who’ve been impacted," said J.K. Symancyk, CEO of PetSmart on its website. "As pet parents, we understand you may have specific questions about how to keep your families safe, and we are here to support you every step of the way. PetSmart is working around the clock to ensure we’re able to provide the products and services you need, and to keep our customers, our associates and the pets we love healthy and safe."
As part of its in-store efforts, PetSmart has increased the frequency of cleanings, and has provided supplemental supplies to the store teams, according to Symancyk. Hand sanitizer, like before, is available throughout all the stores.
Within PetSmart’s grooming salons, pet hotels and doggie day camps, associates will follow regular cleaning practices using a disinfectant formulated to kill the coronavirus, among other germs, according to Symancyk.
In addition, according to Symancyk, the company will continue to clean and disinfect all grooming tables, kennels, water/food bowls, toys and grooming tools between every pet service; sanitize and clean all surfaces and playrooms every night; and change air filters every week to maintain clean, healthy air in the grooming salons.
PetSmart officials are also working closely with its team members to "ensure that anyone who is not feeling well understands that we support them staying home."
"This situation continues to evolve quickly, and we will be monitoring it closely," Symancyk said. "Based on current guidance and our own standards and practices, we remain open for business and are committed to providing an outstanding experience for you and your pets."
Petco’s CEO Ron Coughlin also posted a message on the company’s website.
"We know [COVID-19] is a concerning topic for people everywhere, including pet parents," Coughlin said. "As your partner in caring for the overall health and wellness of your pets, we want to ensure you have the information you need to care for your entire family—fur, fins and scales, alike. We’ve tapped into our Petco Pet Wellness Council, an independent coalition of leading experts in animal health and veterinary science, to provide perspective on the most important things you need to know. We’re here for you and your pets. Always. We’ll continue to keep you updated as the situation evolves."
Thomas Edling, DVM, a 25-year veterinarian with a special interest in infectious and zoonotic diseases, is a member of the Petco Pet Wellness Council.
"First and foremost, we are following and reinforcing all guidance and resources available from the World Health Organization and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], and so should you," Dr. Edling said. "We’ve also been disheartened to read reports that some pet parents in areas where the virus is prevalent have made troubling decisions about abandoning their pets out of misinformation about how the coronavirus spreads. Pet parents under no circumstances should be abandoning their pets because of COVID-19."
Edling pointed out that according to the CDC, there is currently no known reason to believe that any animals, including pets in the United States, can spread COVID-19. Preventive measures, however, should always be in place, he added.
"People who are sick with COVID-19 should restrict their contact with animals," Edling said. "If you see any changes in the health condition of your pets, advice from a veterinarian should be sought as soon as possible. As always, pet parents should adopt good hygiene habits, such as washing their hands before and after handling pets, their food and supplies and maintain a clean environment."
Petco officials said that they are taking proactive steps to ensure appropriate hygiene and sanitation supplies are available and basic preventive measures are followed at all its Petco locations, including stores, distribution and support centers.
"All Petco stores are cleaned and sanitized daily as part of our normal business operations," officials said in a statement. "In light of COVID-19, we’re increasing the frequency and extent of those cleanings and taking proactive steps to stock all Petco locations with ample hygiene and sanitation supplies. Each Petco store has several hand sanitizer dispenser stations in place at varying locations throughout the store, and we’ve instructed our store teams to ensure hand sanitizer is also available at all checkout locations, grooming salons and other high traffic areas of the store."
Petco officials said they have also temporarily adjusted its paid leave policy to ensure that its partners "feel safe and supported if they need to miss work."