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Adoptions Protocols

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Exposed Animals Protocol

Transport Protocols

Frequently Asked Questions regarding
California Animal Care Workers as Essential Critical Infrastructure

Yes.  And workers at any business (including a nonprofit) that operates a physical facility, and that provides basic daily care for animals, and/or veterinary care, are covered.  So both private and municipal shelters are included, and their workers are exempt from the “shelter in place” orders because they are Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers.

Yes. And workers at any animal rescue group that operates a physical facility, and that provides basic daily care for animals, and/or veterinary care, are exempt from the “shelter in place” orders because they are Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers.

The term “animals” is broadly defined under California law and the listing of workers does not differentiate between species, so the workers at any physical facility that provides basic daily care, and/or veterinary care, for any species of animals, are exempt from the “shelter in place” orders because they are essential critical infrastructure workers.  For example, in addition to facilities housing dogs and cats and other small animals, this would include facilities where horses are kept, or where wildlife care is done.

•  While animal care facilities including shelters should reduce or eliminate all non-essential activities at this time, adoptions are essential life-saving activities, and important functions of these facilities. Adoptions benefit the public health and safety by reducing the chances of disease transmission to both the public and the animal community.  Adoptions also prevent other problems associated with longer term stays in shelters that could lead to negative impacts on the human community, as well as the lives of the animals in those facilities.  And adoptions allow shelters to be available to take in animals who are rendered homeless, or whose owners cannot care for them, because of COVID-19.  Adoptions are essential activities for the entire community, and a vital part of the mission of many animal care facilities’ work. 

•  Workers at any business (including a nonprofit) that operates a physical facility, and that provides basic daily care for animals, and/or veterinary care, are Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers and therefore exempt from the “shelter in place” orders, and can continue adoptions if they desire.

•  The Executive Order exempts workers at these facilities, and therefore the important work that is done there. The Executive Order also allows for individuals who need to access services at these facilities to venture out of their homes on a limited and cautious basis to obtain these services.  Adoptions should be done, as much as possible, without in-person interactions.  Any possible use of the internet or telephone for essential activities should be considered.  For example, adoptions can be done by appointment or mainly on the internet with video visits and telephone interviews, so that the number of interactions between individuals is limited to a bare minimum. 

•  To the extent any in-person activities are required as part of an adoption, at all times, strict social distancing norms should be observed, all precautions and protocols should emphasize public health and safety, and sanitation and hygiene should be increased.

•  The SF SPCA has developed written protocols for adoptions during this period, which are available on the SF SPCA website.

•  In order to access essential activities, members of the public can travel to shelters for essential activities, including adoptions-by-appointment, with strict adherence to social distancing rules and any additional protocols designed for these situations.

•  See above response re adoptions for additional important information.

•  The SF SPCA has developed written protocols for adoptions during this period, which are available on the SF SPCA website.

Yes.  The Executive Order recognizes and approves the work of animal shelters as part of the critical infrastructure and exempts Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers at these facilities, and allows for individuals who need to access services at these facilities to venture out of their homes.  See above response re adoptions for additional important information.

Yes.  All individuals in all of the essential infrastructure sectors are identified as “workers” and so as long as they are “working” (whether as a volunteer, employee, contractor, management or otherwise), they are exempt pursuant to the Executive Order and the Governor’s list of Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers.

Yes.  All individuals working (in whatever capacity) at a shelter or animal care facility that provides veterinary and/or basic daily care are exempt pursuant to the Executive Order and the Governor’s list of Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers.  Workers involved in the infrastructure needed to run essential activities are therefore included.

Yes.  Volunteers are workers and so volunteers are exempt Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers.  Nothing in the Executive Order prohibits fostering of animals by members of the public or workers, especially where fostering is necessary to continue the work of animal care facilities that benefits the public health and safety, as well as the lives of animals, and that is related to the daily work of such facilities.

•  Yes. Workers involved in animal transport that is related to the business of animal care facilities (including adoptions, veterinary and/or basic daily care for shelter animals) are Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers, and are exempt from the Executive Order.  Transport should be limited to what is necessary to continue the work of animal care facilities that benefits the public health and safety, as well as the lives of animals, and that is related to the daily work of such facilities.  Participants should comply with strict social distancing rules and any additional protocols designed for these situations. 

•  While there may be sufficient need in your local community to limit your activities there, as of the time these answers were written, moving within the state, across state lines, or through different areas with different orders is acceptable, as long as the transport is necessary to continue the work of animal care facilities that benefits the public health and safety, as well as the lives of animals, and that is related to the daily work of such facilities.  Since new orders may come into effect, we recommend you check to see if the states and/or counties that you are accessing have any special rules.

•  The SF SPCA has developed written protocols for transport and adoptions during this period, which are available on the SF SPCA website.

•  Yes.  Workers involved in animal transport that is related to the business of animal care facilities (including adoptions and veterinary and/or basic daily care for shelter animals) are Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers, and are exempt from the Executive Order.  Transport should be limited to what is necessary to continue the work of animal care facilities that benefits the public health and safety, as well as the lives of animals, and that is related to the daily work of such facilities.  Any of these activities should be undertaken with strict adherence to social distancing rules and any additional protocols designed for these situations.

•  The SF SPCA has developed written protocols for transport during this period, which are available on the SF SPCA website.

Yes.  See answers regarding adoptions and transport for additional important information, and the SF SPCA’s protocols.

California law requires the spaying/neutering of all animals transferred from shelters or rescues to private citizens, and so spay/neuter embodies a strong California state public policy, and is part of the necessary work of any animal care facility in the state.  Because the spay-neuter requirement is mandatory under state law, it is one of the essential activities of animal shelters and must be done before any adoptions.  And while this limited amount of spay-neuter activities are essential, shelters and veterinarians should self-monitor to ensure the safety of the public and shelter staff and conserve the use of personal protective equipment at all times, in order to ensure the human health care system has access to as much equipment and supplies as possible.

•  Because the spay-neuter requirement is mandatory under state law, it is one of the essential activities of animal shelters and must be done before any adoptions.

•  Foster-to-adopt programs can continue as part of the work of animal care facilities, and animals do not have to be sterilized to go into a foster-to-adopt situation.

•  The “veterinary certification” exemption from spay/neuter requirements does not apply in most cases for animals adopted from shelters and rescues, because it is only applicable to animals who are too sick or injured to have the surgery, or where the surgery would be detrimental to the animal’s health.

Yes.  While rabies vaccinations should be administered whenever possible, and a rabies vaccination is required for all animals in California, ensuring that an animal is vaccinated is typically the requirement of the owner, as opposed to the source (such as shelter or rescue) of the animal.

Yes.  For example, dogs can be walked and exercised outside of the shelter, as long as strict social distancing protocols are followed and as long as outdoor activities are limited to those that members of the public are allowed to engage in with their animals.  This would include animal care facilities outside of the shelter context, such as stables.

Yes, pet stores are essential as to supplying necessities for pet owners and may remain open if they are selling pet food and other health-related items (supplements, flea & tick treatments etc.). An adequate supply and availability of nutritional and supportive care for pets is vital for members of the community to be able to care for their animals during “shelter in place” orders.

According to the California Department of Public Health, retail sales of dogs, cats, and bunnies in pet stores, are nonessential and should be stopped during this period. We recommend that sales of other pets in pet stores also stop during this period.

•  While there is no specific listing of nonessential activities, the sheltering community is very responsive and proactive to concerns regarding the need for protection of the public during the COVID-19 response.  So each shelter should make its own decision with respect to what is nonessential.

•  Some examples of nonessential activities that have been suggested include grooming for aesthetic reasons, retail sales of other than food and health-related products, licensing of pets, non-urgent owner surrenders of animals, and non-urgent animal control activities.

The answer depends on the language of your local order and the nature of your facility.  While local municipalities can enter orders that are more restrictive than the Executive Order issued by the state, we are not aware of any local orders that limit the work of animal care facilities that provide veterinary and/or basic daily care for animals.  As long as your local order is not more restrictive on this issue, the answers with respect to the state rules provided here apply.  We recommend that you consult a lawyer or your local authorities to confirm compliance with both the Executive Order and any local orders that supplement the Executive Order.

•  In San Francisco and the cities and counties subject to orders identical to the Bay Area order, workers in shelters and other animal care facilities that provide veterinary and/or basic daily care for animals are Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers and therefore exempt from the “shelter in place” Executive Order. This work includes the types of essential activities necessary to maintain public health and safety and provide important supportive productive infrastructure elements to California citizens during the COVID-19 response period.

•  The Bay Area Order is more restrictive than the Executive Order to the extent it provides greater consideration of the public health and safety factors related to animal care. Shelters and covered animal care facilities in San Francisco and those cities that adopted the Bay Area Order are authorized to continue operations, but should determine independently what activities are essential, and limit operations to those activities.

•  Of course, social distancing norms should be observed, and all precautions and protocols should emphasize public health and safety, sanitation and hygiene should be increased, and any possible use of the internet or telephone for essential activities should be considered.

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