Coronavirus: what the outbreak means for pets, livestock and other animals

March 18, 2020

It’s a scary and uncertain time. With the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic gripping the world, each morning seems to bring more bad news. But during this global crisis, it’s so important we don’t forget about animals.

Here at RSPCA South Australia, we’re doing all we can to maintain standards of care for all animals – both those in our care, and those in the wider community.

To help you understand how you can best protect animals at this time, we’ve put together detailed information below.

Within our own organisation, we’re closely monitoring the situation. We’re very aware of the possible risk to our people and the impact on animals in our care. Minimising this risk has required some changes to our operations, which we have detailed below (and we are regularly updating this page with any further updates).

For the most up-to-date information, please keep an eye on our social media, especially Facebook.

Coronavirus - what the outbreak means for animals

You cannot contract coronavirus from animal companions

First things first: please be reassured that there currently appears to be no risk of contracting COVID-19 from animal companions – so continue to give your pets lots of love.

The current spread of COVID-19 is a result of human-to-human transmission of a novel coronavirus known as SARS-CoV-2. To date, there is no evidence that companion animals play a role in the spread of this human disease or that they become sick if they are exposed to the virus.

So there’s no need to be concerned about having contact with your companion animals as a result of this outbreak. However, it’s wise to practice increased hygiene during this time and ensure you wash your hands with soap and water (or use an alcohol-based sanitiser) before and after touching animals.

You can read more about this on our RSPCA Knowledgebase.

Animals are still available for adoption

Now, more than ever, animals in South Australia need your help. We currently have hundreds of animals in our care (unfortunately, some of these animals are unable to made available for adoption straightaway and will have to remain in our care for some time). Across the globe animal adoptions have decreased, and we are now taking proactive and urgent measures to get our animals into loving homes wherever possible.

We are taking all the necessary steps to protect the health and well-being of the animals in our care, our staff, and the community we serve. So, for the first time in our history, we will require members of the public to go online to make an appointment for a potential adoption at our Lonsdale shelter and RSPCA PetVille. Bookings can be made at:

When planning a visit to our shelters, please take note of our updated procedures:

  • Please only visit our locations if you intend to adopt – we’re doing our best to keep everyone safe. See our location opening hours and addresses here.
  • While we understand adopting a pet is a family affair, due to current circumstances and the need to adhere to social distancing recommendations, a maximum of two people only will be permitted entry per adoption appointment booking.
  • If you are interested in adopting a dog and already have a dog at home, we require a dog-to-dog meet and greet to make sure your new pet will integrate well into your family. We prefer you bring your dog with you to your appointment and have a family member or friend with you to look after your dog while you are introduced to dogs available for adoption. If that is not possible please discuss with our team to arrange a dog-to-dog meet and greet for the following day.
  • All visitors are required to sanitise their hands upon arrival, prior to interaction with any animals or RSPCA team members.
  • Any visitors that are visibly unwell with cold or flu symptoms will unfortunately not be permitted entry.

Dog training school is temporarily closed – PetVille is still open and op shops begin to reopen

To protect the health of our volunteers and the public, we temporarily closed all of our Adelaide op shops on Tuesday, March 24 until further notice. From Monday, May 25 our Sefton Park & Kidman Park Op Shops reopened with modified trading hours. ⁣Both stores will be accepting limited donations, so please be mindful to only donate clean items in good condition that you would happily give to a friend. We hope to reopen the rest of our op shops over the coming months.

From Wednesday, June 3 our Brighton op shop reopened with modified trading hours. Currently, our Brighton store is unable to accept donations for health and safety reasons but we hope to be able to accept them soon.

Our RSPCA Dog Training school also temporarily ceased all training courses on Tuesday, March 24. This was much sooner than we anticipated, but the team are working on ways in which we can provide our dog training services in an online platform.

Our pet retail store, RSPCA PetVille Hillcrest, remains open but has introduced the following measures:

  • All payments must be credit card only, no cash.
  • All staff and shoppers are required to adhere to social distancing rules.
  • All adoptions require a pre-booked appointment. Bookings can be made here.
  • Store purchase limits restricted to reasonable retail quantities.
  • Lonsdale shelter donations will not be accepted.

Alternatively, you can shop online at for delivery or click & collect.

Million Paws Walk public event won’t go ahead; we’ve launched Walk This May as an alternative

Very sadly, because of restrictions placed on events and large gatherings, we won’t be able our Million Paws Walk public event on Sunday, May 17. Being unable to host our giant national fundraising walk against animal cruelty will have a huge impact on the vital funds we need to care for animals across Australia.

So we’ve now launched ‘Million Paws Walk: Walk This May’ – your fun excuse to (responsibly) walk your dog and raise money for animals in need. While social distancing is a national priority, our dogs still need enrichment and exercise. We’re asking supporters to safely take their dogs for a walk in their neighbourhood or backyard and keep raising funds for RSPCA along the way.

See the full announcement here.

Donate to our COVID-19: Animal Crisis Appeal and help SA’s most vulnerable animals

COVID-19 has already hit our charity hard in many ways. The closures of our social enterprises, the cancellation of our Million Paws Walk public event and loss of donations adds up to the loss of vital income to provide critical services for animals in need. We’ve had to ask our volunteers not to come in. And this crisis comes so soon after the bushfires and amid an economic downturn.

We know times are tough for many in our community. But we feel we must be upfront and honest about the situation we are facing.

We are struggling. And we’re seriously worried about the welfare of South Australia’s most vulnerable animals as the coronavirus pandemic spreads.

We’re facing the possibility of still having 500 animals in care if and when the lockdown comes, and they’ll have to stay for months. Our welfare inspectors will also continue working to save animals from cruelty and neglect, bringing more animals into our care.

Make no mistake, we here at RSPCA are a community of animal lovers – and we will stop at nothing to ensure animals are safe from suffering in South Australia.

But we can’t do it without your help. That’s why we’ve launched our COVID-19: Animal Crisis Appeal. And we’re asking you, if you can, to please dig deep and donate to help keep these essential frontline animal care and rescue services going. There is no time to lose.

Follow these social distancing tips to keep your pets and family safe

Australia’s Chief Medical Officer and the World Health Organisation, along with many other authorities, have advised that social distancing is a key way to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. So how does this apply to your pets, especially dogs that need to be exercised regularly?

We advise the following:

  • Enjoy dog walks but keep at least 1.5 metres away from other people.
  • Be hygienic and thoroughly wash your hands after interacting with your pets (especially rabbits, rodents, birds and reptiles).
  • Avoid being kissed, licked or sharing food with your pet.
  • Ensure you have supplies of pet food and medication in case you need to stay at home.

Prepare for self-isolation: ensure you have enough pet supplies

If you’re diagnosed with coronavirus, you will be required to self-isolate. So it’s best to consider your pet’s welfare now, and how you will ensure their needs are met while maintaining your quarantine.

Here’s some basic advice to help you prepare for this situation:

  • To be safe, we recommend keeping two weeks’ worth of supplies for each of your pets – including food and any medications. But please don’t panic buy or hoard more than you need. This creates shortages for others.
  • Ideally you’ll be able to keep your pets with you – we’ve collated tips on how to keep your cat happy indoors here. But if you have dogs or other animals that need exercising outdoors, don’t leave your own property. Stick to your own garden if you can, or arrange for someone to help with their care. You might also like to try making these 6 simple DIY dog toys. Likewise, if you own a horse or livestock, and keep them on land that’s not based at your address, arrange for a friend to care for them until you can return to normal.
  • If you’re concerned about your pet’s health while you are self-isolating, don’t break your quarantine – ring your vet to ask for advice. They will be able to work with you to ensure your pet receives the care they need while keeping themselves and their staff safe from COVID-19 infection.
  • There is some risk that if you are infected with coronavirus, it may be present on your pet’s fur or skin and could be picked up by another person. So you need to make sure anyone who comes into contact with your pets practices good hygiene.

If you’re able to stay with your pets during self-isolation, this can actually be a positive outcome – your pet will love the extra attention and games.

Don’t panic – and please don’t abandon your pets

Already, we’ve fielded several calls at our Lonsdale shelter from concerned members of the public, worried they will need to surrender their animals or even have them euthanased to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Please remember, there is currently no evidence that animals (including companion animals, farm animals and wildlife) are involved in the spread of this virus in Australia.

The worst outcome for animal welfare right now would be for our shelters to be inundated by unwanted animals, at a time when we’re likely to be short-staffed and when adoptions are slowing. Please take care of your animals; a little preparation should help ensure you can continue to care for your pets during this crisis.

But, of course, if you find yourself in urgent need, please do contact us. We will do our best to help.

Please be patient as we process foster carer and volunteer applications

As the pandemic continues to gain speed, we’re expecting to experience staff and volunteer shortages across our organisation. Thankfully, we have been inundated with foster care and volunteer applications since early March – thank you to all who have applied!

Very sadly, as of Saturday, March 28, we’ve had to suspend volunteer roles across all sites. Accordingly, we have now temporarily closed all volunteer and foster care applications.

We ask that those who had already applied please do not call our shelter to follow up your application. We are experiencing higher than usual call volumes and need to ensure we can keep our lines open for calls about animals in urgent need.

Please bear with us, as our team are working hard to process applications as quickly as possible and will get back to you as soon as they can. Watch your emails, as we’ll send updates when the times comes to activate this support base.

We need your help…

Our priority will always be helping animals in need. As the situation around coronavirus unfolds, we’ll continue to do everything we can to rescue and care for vulnerable animals.

But, as this uncertain situation progresses, we’re experiencing extra strain across our entire organisation. Sadly, we also expect to lose many of our vital donations. We have been forced to temporarily close all our Adelaide op shops and our RSPCA Dog Training school – social enterprises that provide crucial funding to our animal welfare work. We’ve had to ask our volunteers to stop coming in.

As a charity 91% funded by community donations, we’ve always relied on the generosity of kind supporters like you to enable us to save animals.

Now, more than ever, we need your help. The truth is, we can’t be there for animals without your kind support. So, if you can, please consider donating – and know that your spare change could mean a world of difference to an animal in need.

  • Was this article helpful?
  • YesNo
Share this story:

36 thoughts on “Coronavirus: what the outbreak means for pets, livestock and other animals”

  1. Dianne Bignell

    Hi it’s Di Bignell, I’ve done a lot of philanthropic
    Work with you guys.
    I’d like to foster/adopt an old senior to help you guys out and give it a great home in its older years

  2. Caroline Jeffers

    I would love to adopt some chickens how do i go about it ?

    1. Hi Caroline, we do at times have chickens available for adoption, but not right now. Please keep checking our adoption pages, as more animals are becoming available daily. Thank you.

  3. Emma Swanbury


    Considering all of the problems with Coronavirus, do you need any dogs foster cared during lock down? I’d be happy to help ????

  4. Flora Elliott

    Hi. I’m interested in adopting two compatible cats. Either both male or both female. What time are you open until tomorrow?

    1. Hi Flora, it’s best to check our Facebook page for all current opening hours during the coronavirus pandemic, as things are changing rapidly. At this stage, we will be open from 10am to 7pm tomorrow (Thursday, March 26). Thank you.

  5. Glenn wolfe

    HI there, we would love to adopt a dog but I feel it might be a bit hard on my wife as she has become very frail as she has had several strokes in last 2 years, so I will continue to donate..

  6. Barbara Jones

    We live in a retirement village, so if you have a smaller type of dog, well behaved and it needs adoption, we would be interested.

  7. Linda Campbell

    Please provide me with Fostering information. How many animals can you foster? Can you foster even if you have your own pets?

  8. Erika Wiszniewski

    I am interested in Tibbles (112279) and Pinky (112280). Would they be happy being indoor cats?

    1. Hi Erika, it’s best to call our shelter for this kind of info – you can catch them at 1300 4 777 22 (during opening hours). But please be aware that we are experiencing higher than usual call volumes at the moment, please bear with us as we do our best during this difficult time. Thank you.

  9. Elisha

    Hi, the CORONAVIRUS was spread from neglected sick animals at a wet market in Wuhan to humans. Youve published information on this web page that states this is not the case. Can I ask where that information was sourced from?

    Is this also not the time to shed light on this fact and advocate to treat animals with kindess as this virus could have been prevented.

  10. Grace

    I hope this is not a silly question but does the virus stay on animal’s fur at all? Is this possible?

    1. Hi Grace, it is possible that traces of the virus may remain on an animal’s fur, but specific studies have not been done on this yet. As a precaution, we do not recommend allowing those outside the home to pat your animal. You can read some tips from our friends at RSPCA England & Wales here:

  11. Kerry anne Miels

    Kerry I am looking for a small dog to adopt that gets on with other animals

  12. Gill

    We adopted beautiful Nala a week ago, she has settled into our lives so quickly and we wonder now just what we did before her…she is a much loved family member

  13. kylie

    can you still get your dog to the groomers in this pandemic

    1. Hi Kylie, it’s best to check with your groomer to see if they’re still operating and what changes they’ve made to accommodate social distancing requirements – or if they can recommend any products to use on your dog at home.

  14. Rio

    I work FIFO in Perth and I have to drop off and pick up my dog from a kennel before and after I fly in/out. Just wanted to make sure if this is an essential travel. Thanks.

    1. Hi Rio, since we’re based in South Australia, we can’t be sure of the requirements in Perth. It’s best to check with your local MP in Western Australia, or perhaps RSPCA WA: Thanks.

  15. Renee

    We are looking at adopting a rabbit in May but there doesn’t seem to be anything on your website, do you get many Rabbits?

    1. Hi Renee, yes we do have some rabbits in care at the moment but they are not yet ready for adoption, as they are recovering from medical issues or awaiting desexing. Please keep checking our adoption page, as it is regularly updated 🙂

  16. Sharon Ferguson

    Hi there. I cannot find the page for fostering a dog. I registered a few weeks ago and have sent photos of my backyard. I would love a staffy if possible. 2 grandchildren have 2 spoilt English staffies & my other 2 grandchildren have a very spoilt Américan staffy. Hence my preference to foster a staffy. Thank you.

    1. Hi Sharon, you can read about our foster care program here: However, please note that we have been inundated with applications for foster care (fabulous news!), and as a result have temporarily closed applications until further notice. Please keep checking back for any further updates or changes to the current situation. Thank you for your interest in helping us out and fostering.

  17. Ray Martin

    Some weird person in power at Eldercare SA has made a rule that pups are no longer allowed in their aged care homes. As a dog lover and a breeder to many years Ifind this sip odd as the best way to train a dog is to start as we do with human babies as they grow from birth. I was recommended by my psychiatrist to get another dog to assist me through a very rough period and
    The aged care office rang me and gave me two weeks to get rid of my pup.. This has devestated me and today I was taken to hospital as I was considered a troubled person and needed mental health help. Obviously Iam desperately in need of a small breed dog about two or three years old but they are so hard to get from adoption places I guess Iam going to die aloneI have lost many tears after I had to give up my dear little man Shame on you Eldercare and I wonder how your aged parent would feel if they lost their house mate. Loneliness is a killer so don’t tell me you are really caring about us but you quickly take our money A very sad unhappy resident

    1. Hi Ray, we are sorry to hear you have had this experience. It is worth getting in contact with Eldercare SA and seeing who the best person is to speak to about your grievances. Good luck.

  18. Jennie Hackett

    Shame on Eldercare

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to news archive