Shelter-in-place orders are beginning to ensure continued care for animals

By Julie Castle

When it comes to disasters, good news is a welcome relief, so it is heartening to see the progress that has been made on a very important front. One big thing that has changed for the animals since the days of Hurricane Katrina — when people’s pets were an afterthought by emergency planners — is that pets are being included in statewide and local emergency orders.

This time around, we are seeing state and local agencies incorporating the needs of shelter animals and owned pets in their orders, as an integral part of our collective response to COVID-19. Notably, California and Ohio are great examples of states where shelter-in-place orders identify animal shelters, animal care operations and even pet supply outlets as essential businesses and services.

As noted in this blog last Thursday, Best Friends Animal Society issued recommended language for state and local governments to consider including in their shelter-in-place or “safer at home” orders so that continued care for companion animals would be ensured. These recommendations are being circulated at the local, state and federal levels to ensure the protection of homeless and owned pets in affected areas.

This will only increase in importance in the days ahead. As of today, the number of Americans under some version of a shelter-in-place order surpassed the 100 million mark and as more such orders are issued around the country, it’s critical that other states and municipalities take note of California’s and Ohio’s example.

Pets in shelters, rescue groups and boarding facilities need to be cared for, and their lives must be protected as well. That means continued care by animal shelters, rescue organizations, boarding facilities and similar businesses must be specifically called out in all shelter-in-place orders. People must also be able to seek emergency veterinary care for their animals, and it is crucial that pet supply stores are allowed to remain open, since grocery stores often don’t carry the supplies that are essential to the health and well-being of our animal companions.

You can read Best Friends’ shelter-in-place guidance here. We are committed to being a resource to any governments looking for assistance in accommodating pets in their shelter-in-place or similar order. For guidance, please email Ledy VanKavage, Best Friends senior legislative attorney, at

Stay safe, be smart, be good to the animals and be good to each other.

Together, we will Save Them All.


Julie Castle


Best Friends Animal Society