With pet owners worrying about who would care for their animals if they are quarantined, some companies and organizations in Japan are trying to provide relief. One insurance firm is even starting to watch over dogs and cats for free, but not all companies in the sector are so eager to get involved.
An animal shelter in Gunma Prefecture received an email from an elderly woman in March who had come down with a fever. She didn’t have any immediate family nearby, so she wanted to leave her 17-year-old cat with the shelter if she was infected with the coronavirus and had to self-isolate.
Although the woman’s fever disappeared within a few days and there was no need for anyone else to take care of the cat, the shelter decided against accepting pets under such circumstances.
“There are many uncertainties over whether the virus infects animals or not and it’s too high of a risk,” the shelter said.
The Japan Pet Salon Association, which has around 700 affiliated firms that engage in grooming and boarding, said it likewise advises against taking the pets of coronavirus patients.
However, the Tokyo Veterinary Medical Association said animals should be entrusted to a facility as soon as possible if owners test positive for COVID-19 and are unable to care for their pets.
Architect Mieko Okawa, who lives in Tokyo with her husband and 4-year-old Dalmatian, is also worried about living in quarantine if she or her husband becomes infected. She said it has proven difficult in the past to find a facility willing to accept their dog, which weighs over 30 kilograms and measures over a meter in length.
“We’ve been making extra efforts to prevent infection and have been in contact with friends to help each other out in an emergency,” Okawa said. “But we’re still worried that the dog might get left behind.”
To alleviate the anxiety of owners, pet insurance company Anicom Insurance Inc. launched a new service in April allowing coronavirus patients to entrust their pets to a designated facility while they are hospitalized or in isolation.
Owners can apply for the Stay Anicom program online and do not have to buy pet insurance or be registered prior to contacting the company.
The insurer accepts dogs and cats, which are looked after by veterinarians and staff for free while the owner is away. Two dogs were being looked after as of Friday.
“The facility we secured can accept up to around 10 animals, but we have also received offers of cooperation,” a company spokesperson said. “We would like to build up our know-how in order to expand our services.”