Coronavirus Planning and Precautionary Measure Update Page

3-25-20 - Organizational Update

Dear Friends and Family,

I hope this message finds you and your families healthy and well. At the Guide Dog Foundation and America’s VetDogs, we have been working tirelessly to ensure the health and safety of the dogs and puppies in our care, our students and graduates, our volunteers, and our staff. Our leadership team has been meeting daily to evaluate and adjust our response to the ever-changing landscape brought on by the COVID-19 (coronavirus) crisis.

As the seriousness of the situation evolved, our most recent guide dog class was sent home early. They were nearly finished with their training, so their new guide dogs were able to accompany them.

In accordance with New York State expectations and to do our part, we minimized the on-campus staff to the fullest extent possible while still providing care for our dogs. Staff who can work remotely are doing so, and we remain available to respond to inquiries from our graduates, donors, and volunteers.

Our Canine Care, Volunteer Service, and Training Teams have been working around the clock to find temporary homes for our puppies and dogs, and we have been amazed by the immediate response and support of our volunteers. One week ago, we had over 280 puppies and dogs in our kennels and nursery – today, only 7 adult dogs and 15 newborn puppies remain on campus, allowing us to keep staff to a minimum.

The program dogs in our kennels have also been relocated to foster homes. Dogs undergoing their formal guide or service dog training are living with their trainers so that they may continue working in anticipation for the day when we can resume classes and normal business operations. The puppies in our prison puppy program have also found new homes for the time being to ensure their health and safety.

The Consumer Services team and Field Service Representatives will continue to support our graduate community through virtual meeting tools, and will continue to be available via phone, email, and online whenever needed for anyone requesting assistance with their guide or service dog.

I recognize that we are facing unprecedented times, but I am confident that the same spirit that unites us as Americans will see us through this. To help us meet the current challenges, please consider making a donation so that we can ensure that the puppies and dogs in foster homes with our volunteers and staff remain healthy and cared for. It costs about $25 per day to provide food, shelter and around the clock care for one of our program dogs. Please consider a gift of $25 for one day or $100 for other medical needs such as vaccinations, so that we may continue to fulfill our mission.

I have been incredibly impressed by the collective spirit and passion our team - volunteers, donors, and staff – displays every day. We continue to monitor the situation closely and will take necessary measures to ensure the well-being of our community.

Thank you for your support.

John Miller
President & CEO
Guide Dog Foundation and America’s VetDogs

3-24-20 - Animal Health and COVID-19 

Transmission of COVID-19 by livestock and pets
Although data is still limited, we are not aware of any reports worldwide of any animal getting sick after exposure to a human case, despite the large outbreak in humans. To date, there have been no reports of livestock being infected or sick with COVID-19 virus anywhere.

There are still many unknowns and scientists are trying to understand if and how it affects animals. There have been reports of two dogs in Hong Kong testing positive for COVID-19 viral material following exposure to a human COVID-19 case. Both of the dogs did not show any signs of being sick, and according to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), there is no evidence that pets play a role in transmitting the disease to humans.

Learn More

March 18, 2020 - Organizational Updates

We hope this message finds you and your families well. The leadership team continues to meet on a daily basis to monitor, respond and adjust to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. The health and safety of our employees, clients, donors, volunteers and dogs are our primary concern.  

In addition to previously communicated adjustments, as of March 18, 2020, we have enacted the following: 

Campus Updates: 

  • We have contracted for weekly hospital grade cleaning from an external vendor in all buildings. 
  • We are implementing a plan to work from home for staff whose positions allow. This plan will be evaluated on a weekly basis. 
  • All travel has been suspended except for emergency situations. 
  • We are in the process of making plans for essential services only, should there be a mandated shutdown. (Presently, Guide Dogs for the Blind in San Rafael, CA is closed due to a government order).

Program Updates: 

  • Guide and service dog training has continued from campus. Instructors will avoid crowded areas and buildings and maintain appropriate social separation. 
  • We have consolidated all adult dogs into the Training Center kennels for easier management. 
  • We have suspended all incoming boarding of dogs, except for emergencies and are working to clear out current dogs. 
  • Our Field Service Reps continue to extend outreach to our graduate community and provide support for emergencies.

Puppy Department: 

  • We have placed all puppies 8-weeks and older in temporary volunteer homes. 
  • We have suspended all puppy raising group club meetings and will maintain and open channel of communication along with providing virtual support. 
  • We are in the process of removing all dogs from our prison puppy program. Prison Puppy Advisers will maintain virtual support for all prison dogs. 

We are incredibly impressed by the collective spirit and passion that our team and community continues to display every day in the face of challenging and unprecedented times. We will continue to monitor the situation closely and will take necessary measures to ensure the well-being of our community.
Thank you for your continued efforts during this time and please stay safe!

March 17, 2020 Update - Volunteer Services Update

As we navigate the rapidly changing circumstances of the current COVID-19 pandemic, our top priorities remain the safety and health of our people and the dogs in our care.

In order to support nationwide efforts to increase social distancing and reduce the spread of COVID-19 within our communities, we are suspending all but one on-campus volunteer activities effective immediately.  Puppy bather volunteers may still continue to visit our boarding kennel by appointment, with the restriction that only one individual (or 2 members of the same household) may attend in a given time slot.  If you are a puppy bather and would like to continue your work with our pups, please contact Jaclyn DiCarlo to schedule an appointment.

All other on-campus volunteer activities will be suspended until further notice.

We are committed to continue support for our puppy raising, breeder caretaker, and short term foster volunteer communities, largely through remote means such as telephone, email, and video conference.  In person visits will be considered on a case by case basis, and we ask you to contact your key puppy or breeding representative if you have an urgent request for an in-person consultation.

We are forever grateful for the caring volunteers who have shown us so much support. For the time being we want you all to stay home, stay safe, and keep well so that we can continue our work together when life goes back to normal.
Thank you.

March 12, 2020 Update - Organizational Updates

As a follow up to the COVID-19 information we previously distributed, we wanted to let you know that we are continuing to monitor the situation and planning for what may occur in the coming weeks. 

The Leadership team has been meeting regularly to assess developments.  The health and safety of our staff, graduates and volunteers is paramount and as such we wanted to share the following updates and will continue to update you as plans change and develop.

As of today, March 12, 2020, we have made the following operational adjustments:

  • We have increased the cleaning schedule on touch points. Additionally we have contracted for hospital grade cleaning from a third party vendor.
  • Travel has been limited to essential travel only – to be approved by department heads.
  • We have postponed classes until April 27th and will continue to monitor the situation for future classes.
  • Training in NYC is suspended.
  • Increased supplies – cleaning, medical, dog food.
  • Adjusted puppy raising groups to be 5 or less.
  • Puppy groups have been instructed to avoid crowded and highly populated areas. 
  • Added a container of disinfectant wipes in each vehicle for wipe down of all vehicles daily. 
  • Celebration Saturday scheduled for March 14, 2020 has been restructured to a virtual event.
  • We are working with our various national puppy raising groups, including groups within our universities and prison program, on all planning and care.  
  • We have begun to limit outside traffic to the campus to be mindful of social distancing.

We will continue to monitor the situation closely and will continue to take necessary measures to ensure the well-being of our staff, volunteers and program graduates. As always, we ask that you please follow everyday preventative actions which include:

  • Covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue and dispose of in a “no touch” wastebasket.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Washing hands with soap and water OFTEN and for at least 20 seconds or using hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available.
  • If you are sick, stay home.  

Thank you all for your cooperation and understanding.

Update for Program Graduates                   Update for Program Applicants

March 5, 2020 - Information and Guidance

At the Guide Dog Foundation and America’s VetDogs, we have been actively monitoring COVID-19 (coronavirus) and are providing the informational links below for educational guidance and precautionary steps you can take as an individual.  

Our current work is focused in three main areas:  

Protect yourself and others

  1. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO), and the New York State Department of Health have provided clear recommendations that we as individuals can follow to reduce or prevent the spread of COVID-19. In order to provide the best level of protection for yourself and others, please engage in the following practices:
    Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. This is one of the most important things you can do to help prevent the spread of disease, including COVID-19. Washing your hands with warm or cold water is equally effective, according to the CDC.
  2. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  3. Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue (or if necessary cough into your elbow). Dispose of the tissue immediately after use and wash your hands.
  4. Regularly disinfect surfaces and objects that are frequently touched by people (time clocks, light switches, door knobs, etc.)

We have increased the number of disinfectant wipe packets and hand sanitizers available around campus. We appreciate your efforts to use these products responsibly so that we maintain an adequate supply to meet our needs through the upcoming weeks.

As of today, both the CDC and WHO have reported that there is no evidence that companion animals such as dogs and cats can act as a source of infection for COVID-19.  We will continue to monitor new information as it arises. 

It is important to remember that for our own general health and the health of our dogs, we should wash our hands frequently, especially after handling, feeding, or cleaning up after our dogs.

If you would like to follow the latest news about the impact of COVID-19 on companion animals, here are some links to trustworthy sources of up-to-date information:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention FAQ: COVID-19 and Animals 
World Health Organization: Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) advice for the public: Myth busters
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Healthy Pets, Healthy People (general information about preventing the spread of disease from pets to people)
New Yorkers can call the state hotline at 1-888-364-3065, where experts can answer questions regarding coronavirus.

Preparation for possible impact

Given the public health risk of the virus and the limited information available as the experts continue to develop recommendations and guidelines, we are doing our best to plan for some changes that might occur in the near future. Our current activities include:

  • Program and facilities managers are ensuring that we have an adequate supply of essentials such as cleaning supplies, paper goods, dog food, and medications in the event of a short-term supply chain disruption (for example, if multiple people from one of our local distributors are out sick).
  • We are investigating potential modifications to our operations and are continually assessing the situation.
  • We are in communication with colleagues within the International Guide Dog Federation and Assistance Dogs International to share resources, information, and responses that will best serve our consumers and other stakeholders.

Emergency response

While we are all hopeful that we can minimize impacts of COVID-19 on our campus, we are also engaged in the following preparations:

  • We are seeking guidance from the CDC, WHO, and the NYS Department of Health on current standards and workplace guidance for COVID-19.
  • We are actively communicating with the NYS Department of Health to understand our obligations and required actions in the event that a guest staying at our student residence is diagnosed with COVID-19.

News about the spread of any new disease can be upsetting, especially when so much remains unknown.  Our best advice is to remain calm. Seek out reputable sources of information, and do not pass along rumors or unconfirmed information on social media or among your family, friends, or colleagues. As new information becomes available, we will be sure to provide updates when they are available to you and our community.