Puppies cuddle in a kennel at Watermelon Mountain Ranch in Rio Rancho. The no-kill shelter needs help with pet food, cat litter and cleaning supplies. Courtesy photo.

Local animal experts are teaching the public that their pets can’t contract COVID-19.

Watermelon Mountain Ranch Animal Center’s Executive Director Sara Heffern said she has had to teach pet owners who are ready to surrender their animals that their pets cannot contract COVID-19.

Some pet owners are concerned that COVID-19 can be carried on a pet’s fur.

“Unfortunately, we have had people who think that if someone sneezes near a pet, that it can be transmitted on their fur, and there are absolutely no findings to support that. However, that is a part of the public panic,” Heffern said.

If owners are concerned, they should keep pets, including cats, inside, said veterinary technician Shannon Mckinney from Mesa Grande Animal Clinic.

Heffern has had to clarify that feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) is a disease in cats caused by certain strains of the feline coronavirus. This coronavirus is not COVID-19, and can’t be transmitted from cats to humans, she said.

“The worst thing cats can get is FIP, and they can get that from a scratch or a bite from another cat, and they are so susceptible to infections and everything anyway that we just recommend, regardless of what panic or what is going on outside, to keep your cats inside,” Mckinney said.

Watermelon Mountain Ranch is receiving about five requests a day for canine surrenders, Heffern said. About 5 percent of those requests are COVID-19-related.

COVID-19-related can mean people have lost their job and can no longer afford to feed their pets, or people are relocating for employment opportunities and can’t bring their pets, she said.

Adoption rates at the center have remained consistent throughout the pandemic. People have to call and make appointments in order to adopt an animal.

Watermelon Mountain Ranch, like most shelters, is experiencing supply shortages for disinfectant cleaners, cat litter, dog food and wet and dry cat food.

“We are getting calls all across the state of shelters that are struggling. And we are doing everything we can to help them,” Heffern said.

The Rio Rancho Animal Resource Center has seen no change in surrenders or adoption rates, said city spokeswoman Annemarie Garcia. Neither has has Animal Humane New Mexico, said Kelsey Gutierrez, Animal Humane New Mexico senior adoptions and admissions manager.

To donate to Watermelon Mountain Ranch, visit wmranch.org/donate-1 or set up an appointment to drop off supplies by calling 980-6354. People can also mail in donations to 1380 NM 528 SE, Ste. 374, Rio Rancho, NM 87124.

To donate to the Rio Rancho Animal Resource Center, call 891-5075. The center now requires appointments for pet adoptions as well.

Animal Humane’s biggest need is donations to its pet food bank at it main campus in Albuquerque, at 615 Virginia St. SE. This bank will provide pet food to families in need during the COVID-19 crisis, Gutierrez said.

Assistant Editor at Rio Rancho Observer