Mike Bober, president and CEO of the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council(PIJAC), recently spoke out with concern regarding a study floating aroundvarious news outlets linking COVID-19 risk and dog walking. The study,conducted by the University of Granada and the Andalusian School of PublicHealth in Spain and published in the journal Environmental Research, claimsthat walking a dog may raise the risk of getting COVID-19 by 78 percent. Theresearchers suggested dogs could spread the virus by touching contaminatedsurfaces in public, and then walking the germs throughout their owner’s home,as reported by The New York Post.

“We at the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council are concerned that statementsmade in a new study regarding the risk of COVID-19 contagion and dog walkingcould be misinterpreted and cause the public to unnecessarily limit or ceasetheir interactions with pets,” Bober said in a statement. “It is essential tonote that the activity that was reported in the study to increase the risk ofcontagion was walking a dog outdoors, not interacting with the animal itself.The only correlation to a greater risk of infection that could reasonably havebeen drawn, given the limited information collected, was leaving the home, andtherefore being exposed to a greater number of potentially infectedindividuals.”

The researchers surveyed 2,086 people, with more than 40 percent of theparticipants ranging between 40 and 54 years old. While the researchers notedlimitations of the study, such as the online format and the fact that half ofthe cases are based on self-diagnosis for presenting symptoms compatible withCOVID-19, they concluded that “living with dogs, working on-site, purchasingessential commodities by using home delivery service, and especially, livingwith a COVID-19 patient, have been the main routes of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 during the most restrictive period of confinement in Spain.”

Bober cited that the leading scientific authorities in the United States, theU.S. Department of Agriculture and the Centers for Disease Control andPrevention (CDC), continue to maintain that there is no evidence to suggestthat animals play an important role in the transmission of COVID-19. There isno justification in taking measures against companion animals that maycompromise their welfare, Bober said.

“Hundreds of thousands of people around the world have safely brought petsinto their homes both before and during the COVID-19 pandemic, where they havebenefited from the scientifically-proven emotional and physical healthbenefits of the human-animal bond,” Bober added. “We urge the public to followCDC guidelines [available here] regarding interacting with people and petsboth within and outside your household, and to consult a veterinarian if youhave any concerns about your pets’ health.”

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