California Governor Gavin Newsom has withdrawn his support for a No Kill California. He has also backed away from his promise to protect horses at Santa Anita racetrack. Shelters in Yonkers, NY, Sioux City, IA, and Nevada County, CA, are seeing unprecedented adoption rates. And newspaper reports of a study claiming cats can easily transmit the virus that causes COVID-19 are contradicted by the study itself, needlessly putting lives at risk.

In case you missed it:

Shelters across the country are embracing ingenuity, a “can do” attitude, and technology to save the animals, while also protecting the public and shelter workers during the pandemic. And thanks to an overwhelming response by the public, these shelters say “they have placed record numbers of dogs, cats and other animals” and many are finding themselves empty for the first time in their history. For example:

Shelters do not have to kill animals now. And they don’t have to kill animals should some of them be returned after the crisis is over. Indeed, they never did.

And finally, a series of dramatic headlines claimed that a new “Study shows cats can easily spread coronavirus to each other” and expressed concerns about “cat-to-human transmission of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.” The study showed no such thing. In fact, no study has.

The problems with such claims, and even the studies themselves, are many:

  1. Animals are being harmed to study something that we know is not a problem (i.e., the studies themselves are unethical).
  2. Despite the unprecedented isolation many of us are experiencing, the one good thing keeping many of us happy and sane — our relationship with our families, including pets — is potentially being undermined.
  3. Such claims potentially deter people at a time the public is adopting shelter and rescue animals in record numbers.
  4. Some reporters and some animal welfare groups that have a duty to dig deeper on the claims being made are not taking their jobs seriously, even as the stakes of not doing so are so high.

The World Health Organization cautioned about “an overabundance of information — some accurate and some not — that makes it hard for people to find trustworthy sources and reliable guidance when they need it.” And the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab echoed that concern saying, “Lives depend on it.”

They do.

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