‘Minimum contact with the client:’ Dousman animal hospital institutes ‘no people policy’ due to COVID-19

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DOUSMAN -- Faced with an estimate that up to 1,000 Wisconsin residents could die from the coronavirus within two weeks and that hospitals could get overwhelmed, Gov. Tony Evers issued a sweeping order Tuesday closing nonessential businesses, banning gatherings of any size and imposing month-long travel restrictions from 8 a.m. Wednesday, March 25 until April 24. Veterinary services are considered an essential service under that order -- not only to protect your pet's health, but also, the food chain.

Still, veterinarians are adopting new policies to protect their human clients.

Officials at the Bark River Animal Hospital in Dousman instituted a "no people policy." Basically, while your pet is allowed inside, you are not. It's a policy being adopted by more veterinarians amid COVID-19 concerns.

Dr. Andy Runte

Dr. Andy Runte

"The staff are bringing the pet in -- minimum contact with the client," said Dr. Andy Runte with Bark River Animal Hospital.

Bark River Animal Hospital followed the lead of the Wisconsin Veterinary Referral Center in Waukesha -- which remains open 24/7. They're calling it their "concierge service."

"We'll call them them on speakerphone, and I basically go through the exam just like they were standing there in front of me," said Dr. Runte of his human clients.

Officials with the American Veterinary Medical Association wrote lawmakers, arguing "the services veterinary teams provide are critical to animal and public health," and should remain open. They argued small and large animal care providers do surveillance for diseases, ensure only healthy animals enter the food supply, and provide medical and surgical care daily for critically ill and injured animals.


"We're all in this together we need to help stop the spread of COVID-19," said Governor Tony Evers.

Evers' "Safer at Home" order does not apply to veterinary care and health care services for animals, but the order said nonessential veterinary care should be avoided.

"Everyone's cooped up in our house right now so our pets are that much closer to us," said Dr. Runte.

Bark River Animal Hospital

Bark River Animal Hospital

Dr. Runte said you shouldn't have to worry about your pets catching the coronavirus.

"At this point in time, it's not a disease of dogs," said Dr. Runte. "It's not a disease of cats. They are not becoming ill with this."

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