An article from the Hinsdale Humane society blog, by Dr. Kristin Tvrdik, Medical Director at HHS
While HHS is following CDC, AVMA and WHO directives during the pandemic, we are balancing that with our mission to continue helping homeless animals who still rely on our support not only for care, enrichment and housing, but also for medical needs.
Illinois has yet to apply any mandates regarding operation of veterinary clinics. In fact, animal shelters and veterinary hospitals are listed as essential services during this time. They have recommended taking all necessary precautions to protect employees and clients and have asked that veterinarians preserve needed medications and personal protective equipment (PPE) for human health professionals whenever possible. Several other states, however, have ordered that veterinarians cease all non-essential services, including spay and neuter surgery. Some shelters have moved to adopting out pets with vouchers or agreements that adopters will spay and neuter as soon as it is safe to do so. Unfortunately, historical data has shown that these agreements are difficult to enforce and a large percentage of adopted pets are lost to spay/neuter follow-up. At this point, every little bit of spay neuter surgery that can be done while prioritizing human safety and life, makes a difference in the lives of homeless animals.
Luckily, being in a shelter environment, we are used to thinking outside of the box and being resourceful. We are accustomed to making things work safely and efficiently with limited products, resources, and equipment. The drugs we use for surgeries are not ones being diverted for human use. You may have heard of propofol being in short supply due to COVID patients needing to be sedated for ventilators. We do not use propofol or any other drugs that might be useful in the human fight against COVID.
We have donated our remaining boxes of surgical masks, surgical caps, exam gloves, gowns, and shoe covers to local human health facilities and have alerted them that our oxygen concentrators (which generate oxygen for surgery from room air) are available when and if they need them (HHS does not use oxygen tanks). Any of our remaining medical assets that could potentially aid healthcare professionals in the fight against COVID, will be donated. Additionally, to preserve precious PPE, our medical team has been using a cloth mask during surgery which has been shown to be effective for preventing accidental introduction of bacteria into surgery sites.
The other argument for postponing surgeries aside from allocation of resources, drugs and PPE to human medicine, is the inability for veterinarians and support staff to practice social distancing. Luckily we have a loophole in this area at HHS.
Our doctor is well equipped to work on her own. She’s able to run her own anesthesia, induce her own feline patients, administer emergency drugs and draw blood without assistance, so we are able to work safely without close contact except when handling our dog patients. This limits exposure and interaction to very brief time periods. Our medical team is observing careful social distancing outside of work as well, essentially travelling only between the shelter and their homes.
Additionally, HHS is ready to move to a system of rotating schedules where teams of staff work together consistently if this becomes necessary. All staff members caring for the animals and working with the public, are required to wear face masks and sanitize their hands often. The building is being disinfected regularly in addition to the already deep cleaning processes used throughout the facility.
When we emerge on the other side of this global crisis, we will have to rebuild much of what we have come to know as normal life. This will without a doubt include assessing the damage that has been done to the progress we have made in animal welfare, pet overpopulation, and animal homelessness in our country. HHS is committed to continuing to assist our southern and local transport partners, as well as our local pet owners, so that we can bounce back from this setback and tackle both the old and emerging issues surrounding animal sheltering and welfare.