Chicago Animal Care and Control prepares for influx of pets whose owners are COVID-19 patients

CHICAGO (WLS) -- In anticipation of the COVID-19 spread, Chicago Animal Care and Control prepared for a surge of coronavirus patients giving up pets that they couldn't care for.

But Acting Executive Director Mamadou Diakhate said fortunately, the expected surge hasn't happened.

"The expectation was that many people would be going to hospital, they live alone at home. There is no one at home to take care of the animals left behind and the city should step in and take those," Diakhate said.

So far, Chicago Animal Care and Control have taken in six dogs and one cat. All but two are pets of people who have died from COVID-19.

A boxer's owner remains in the ICU, while a poodle terrier belongs to a deputy sheriff who's being treated for the virus.

"While she was getting transported to the hospital, her only worry was her dog," Diakhate said.

The goal is to return the pets to their owners once they're out of the hospital, and to find homes for the others. All of the pets have been tested for COVID-19.

"So we will take a swab and send them to the University of Wisconsin-Madison for the test," Diakhate said.

So far, the tests that have come back have all been negative, according to Diakhate.

With the cases of COVID-19 still increasing in Chicago, Diakhate said now is the time for pet owners to make a plan in case they're ever unable to care for their animals. Pet owners should consider reaching out to loved ones to see if they can take them in, if needed.

"It is heartbreaking for people who work here and for the family," Diakhate said. "The dog and the cat are part of the family. It's just like being separated for your child."

At Chicago Animal Care and Control, they typically have about 400-450 pets. But right now, they're only caring for 49.

They hope to keep their numbers down so they will have room if there's an influx of animals related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
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