As concerns about coronavirus continue to escalate, universities and colleges have taken advantage of spring break to protect students and staff from circulating virus, and many are planning on remote teaching for the rest of the semester. For schools with students who remain at on campus residences and/or employees with service or emotional support animals, the following should be considered:
- People with service animals cannot be discriminated against, but they are required to provide for the care of their service animal, directly or through some other person. If the disabled individual is infected and quarantined, s/he may be unable to care for that animal. There should be plans for someone else to care for the service animal without exposure to the virus. If the service animal can transmit the virus, even if only as a fomite, additional precautions must ensue. The disabled person must be able to retain the services of that animal for the task(s) for which it has been trained, or an alternative must be considered.
- People with emotional support animals, that may not be afforded as significant protections as those with service animals, would likely benefit from the ability to keep that animal with them in the event they are quarantined, which can be a stressful situation. The same concerns about disease spread to other people and the environment exist.
- The continuation of biomedical research with animal models may be disrupted by the inability to obtain adequate supplies, medications, feed, and/or bedding. Since animals must be properly cared for, plans to provide alternate animal care staff should be considered in the event of infection in existing staff.
It is now increasingly evident that animals are critically important in testing of a potential vaccine against and treatment for COVID-19. See, e.g., These Lab Animals Will Help Fight Coronavirus. Continuing with this research is important for public health during this unprecedented pandemic.
There are many additional concerns about the potential transmission of the virus in a university setting.
As chair of the firm’s Animal Law Practice, I am available to answer any questions you have on this topic. Feel free to email me at Nhalpern@foxrothschild.com