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How to play safely with your pets during coronavirus crisis

Just after 10 a.m. Thursday, six dogs were playing in the small-dogs run at Desert Breeze Park. Their humans were gathered in a circle, discussing football loudly enough to be heard even farther than the responsible distance they were keeping from each other. Two runs over, in the area reserved for large dogs, another half dozen pups of assorted sizes ran, played and barked at their fellow canines being walked on leashes on the other side of the fence.

Dogs, like many domestic animals, don’t understand social distancing. So keeping them happy, and allowing them to keep you happy, can be complicated in our new reality.

At Camp Bow Wow’s Valley View Boulevard location on Thursday, the staff was admitting “campers” to their doggy day care program under new protocols instituted in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. General manager Michele Orestad, or a member of her team, meets each animal in the parking lot so owners won’t congregate in the lobby. Payments, and special instruction about care, are taken over the phone.

Orestad says both her daycare and boarding client numbers are down, so much so that she’s working with a “skeleton crew.” Her businesses is maintaining its normal hours, however, which includes daycare from 6:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week.

“We want to always make sure that we’re open for our clients that are in the medical field, military and those that need us at this time to be able to watch their dogs so they can go to work.”

Cathy Brooks, who operates the boutique, members-only Hydrant Club in Downtown Las Vegas, is in a slightly different position. She’s no longer offering overnight boarding, and has reduced daycare operations to three days a week: Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. She says her members have been understanding and supportive.

“I have been crying tears of joy all week,” she says of their response to the news. “My clients have all said, without fail, ‘You’ve had our back, we have yours.’ ”

Brooks has also instituted strict hygiene protocols, asking members who use the club’s private dog park when she’s not around to do so one at a time, and sanitizing dogs when they arrive at and leave day care.

“We go out and get the dog at the curb, wearing gloves, and we take ahold of the leash by the clip with a disinfectant wipe, and wipe off the whole leash. Then we take the dog’s collar off, and we wipe off the collar once we get the dog inside. Then we take a baby wipe and we wipe off the whole dog. We do that again before the dog leaves here to go to its human, where we bring the dog out to the human at the curb.”

Brooks isn’t worried about dogs being infected with COVID-19. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website states it does “not have evidence that companion animals, including pets, can spread COVID-19” and has “not received any reports of pets or other animals becoming sick with COVID-19.” Brooks does, however, worry that dogs that come in contact with infected people can still carry the virus on their bodies, collars or leashes.

“If someone who is sick touches my dog, handles their collar, handles their leash, throws a ball for them in the park, grabs a water bowl to fill the water bowl, and then someone who is not infected touches that same dog and then rubs their face, transmission can happen through surface contact — just like it can happen that way with a doorknob or a car or a gas pump.”

That’s why she recommends that those who take their dogs to any public place, wipe them down with baby wipes afterward.

“If you’ve been out for a walk, and people you don’t know have been touching your dog, or even people you do know have been touching your dog, then you should wipe your dog down before you snuggle your dog.”

These days, those snuggles are just as important to stressed-out owners as they are to pets. And for those without pets who are feeling lonely as they distance themselves from others, The Animal Foundation has a solution that won’t cost you a thing.

“There’s really no better time than now to help an animal in need, by fostering a pet,” Animal Foundation spokeswoman Kelsey Pizzi says. “A lot of people are stuck at home and might be out of work, and they have that extra time to have that animal at home. And we have so many animals that would love to keep people company.”

On Thursday, the foundation changed its adoption operation to appointment-only. Concerned that this, combined with financial anxieties, may result in fewer adoptions while they continue to accept new arrivals, they are looking to foster homes to free up space. So they’ve made all adoptable animals listed on their website available for foster placement for one to six weeks.

“We would set you up with supplies that are available — food, bowls, treats — and it’s free essentially,” Pizzi explains. “You just give it some love, and a place to stay.”

If dogs and cats aren’t your thing, the current list of available animals includes five rabbits, six turtles, five pigs and three chickens and what appears to be a hamster named Ron.

Contact Al Mancini at amancini@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5250. Follow @AlManciniVegas on Twitter and Instagram.

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