Sunday, May 31, 2020

Online Survey of the Effects of the Pandemic on Pets and Pet Owners

My colleague and frequent collaborator, Tadeusz Jezierski, is working with a group of other scientists in Europe to conduct an international survey regarding dog and cat welfare during the COVID-19 pandemic.  There are separate sites for the dog survey and the cat survey.

The questionnaire asks about the dog or dogs in your household and then seeks to elicit information on changes in your life and your dog's life that occurred as a result of the pandemic.  For instance, did care of the dog have to change as a result of the pandemic? Was there a change in your touching, stroking, and petting of your dog during the pandemic? Why did such changes occur (four choices including "other"). Did you take any measures to prevent spreading of COVID-19?  There are multiple answers to this question, such as "shorter walks", "disinfection of paws/coat", "avoiding close contact with other animals", "leaving your dog(s) temporarily under custody of other people", "giving up dog(s) forever," and "other".  Given news reports of an increasing number of adoptions at many shelters, the problem of abandoning pets may actually come when people return to work or when, because of job loss during the pandemic, abandon dogs and cats they can no longer afford to keep when the pandemic ends.

The survey asks about changes in the dog's behavior during the pandemic (calmer, anxious, apathetic, avoiding close contact or seeking close contact more frequently, development or increase in repetitive behavior, increased aggression, incontinence/urinating indoors, more frequent or less frequent barking, etc.). Were there changes in your dog's health during the pandemic?  The survey asks if you had difficulties in keeping the dog during the pandemic, e.g., with differences in food supply, access to veterinary care, negative comments or hostility from neighbors, pedestrians?  Were there any advantages of having the dog during the pandemic?

Although the survey is posted on a website supported by the European Commission, that is only the platform that the developers used. Most of the scientists who will be evaluating the completed questionnaires are associated with the Institute of Genetics and Animal Breeding of the Polish Academy of Sciences. They are seeking responses from every country and hope to gather enough data to draw conclusions about how the lives of pets and pet owners were affected by COVID-19 and the lock-down or other policies adopted by various countries in response to the pandemic.  I encourage my readers to spend a few minutes completing the survey.