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story.lead_photo.caption Hot Springs police Sgt. Chris Lackey, director of Hot Springs Animal Services, cuddles two Louisiana Catahoula Leopard Dog puppies on Sept. 16, 2019. - File photo by Grace Brown of The Sentinel-Record

Business has been "pretty steady" at Hot Springs Animal Services despite having to close the lobby to customers last week and limiting contact as a precaution against COVID-19, the shelter's director said Wednesday.

"We still have people waiting at the gate when we get here every day, but we've been handling a lot of stuff over the phone," Hot Springs police Sgt. Christopher Lackey said, noting people can still adopt pets or reclaim lost pets but the procedures have changed.

While some kennels and shelters in the country have reported increases in the number of animals being dropped off due to people being concerned about contracting the virus from their pets or possibly giving it to them, Lackey said he wasn't aware of any such confirmed cases locally as yet.

"We have gotten animals in, but none that have been brought in that can be proven because of COVID-19," he said, noting that according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the virus is not transferable from animals to humans.

"We have not had many drop-offs since we closed our lobby and when people are asked the reason for dropping their pet off, no one has told us that it's because of COVID-19," he said.

Lackey stressed that if someone has contracted the virus or suspects they may have it, they may still want to limit contact with their pet or even have someone else take care of the pet while they recover just as a precaution.

"I watch the news every day and there are still a lot of unknowns about it or you would think they would have come up with a cure by now," he said.

For those who feel sure they have not contracted the virus, Lackey said they should "carry on as normal" with their pets.

"You can keep playing with them and taking care of them," he said, noting owners should clean their pets' food bowls and clean and groom their pets regularly whether there are concerns about the virus or not.

While the lobby is closed to regular traffic, those interested in adopting or looking for lost pets can view the animals from the outside kennels or look on the HSAS Facebook page and call the shelter at 501-262-2091 for assistance.

He noted while the dogs can be viewed from outside, the cats are all kept inside. If someone comes to the shelter wanting to adopt a cat they can make arrangements to be escorted back by an employee, but only one person at a time.

He said people dropping off or picking up pets are also directed to the shelter's sally port where the exchange can be made from their car with limited interaction.

"Our employees have masks and gloves to wear and can take the person back to see the cats," he said, noting employees have also been regularly cleaning and sanitizing door handles, counters, the credit card machine and any other items that come in contact with the public for safety.

Business has been steady with "adoptions a little down the last two weeks," but reclaims about the same, Lackey said, noting the public "are somewhat getting used to the new normal."

According to the CDC, "In the United States, there is no evidence to suggest that any animals, including pets, livestock, or wildlife, might be a source of COVID-19 infection at this time. However, because all animals can carry germs that can make people sick, it's always a good idea to practice healthy habits around pets and other animals."

The CDC recommends that pet owners wash their hands after handling animals, their food, waste or supplies, practice good pet hygiene and clean up after pets properly, and take their pets to the veterinarian regularly and talk to them if they have any questions about their pet's health.

For more information, visit https://bit.ly/2xr5wWG.

Local on 03/26/2020

Print Headline: Animal Services sees steady business despite virus precautions

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