As reported in the New York Post, South Africa has banned the walking of dogs during the coronavirus crisis. Fortunately, the United States has imposed no such restriction. But that doesn’t mean questions about the legality and safety of walking your dogs at this time don’t remain. Are there federal, state or local restrictions on walking dogs during the coronavirus crisis, and regardless of such, how do you walk your dog safely during this precarious period? Read on to learn the answers to these questions and more rules and tips for walking your dog during the coronavirus pandemic.

Rules for Walking Your Dog During the Coronavirus Pandemic

If you are under quarantine because you have been exposed to the coronavirus or tested positive for COVID-19, you should restrict contact with your dog as much as possible and must ask another person to walk your dog for you. Ideally, this would be a family member who already lives with you, but, barring that, could be a neighbor, coworker, friend or family member who lives elsewhere. If all else fails, many professional dog-walkers are still serving customers during the coronavirus crisis. Call around to find one available to help you. Not only does this protect you, but it also protects the other people you encounter with your dog (and the people they, in turn, encounter) as well as anyone you live with.

Read also: First Dog Dies of Coronavirus

Whether it’s you walking your dog or anyone else, you are only permitted to walk the dog a short distance and only within a range relatively close to your own neighborhood so the dog can relieve him or herself. You cannot, however, exercise or play with your dog outside. Instead, you must find indoor ways to exercise and play with your dog. In addition, all social distancing (or physical distancing) guidelines also apply and must be abided by. If you are under a shelter-in-place order, you may still walk your dog under these same stipulations.

What If You Don’t Have Someone to Walk Your Dog For You?

If you are not allowed to walk your dog because of quarantine or sickness, but you have no other people able or willing to help you walk your dog, there are many people now fostering dogs for this very reason. Contact your local animal shelter or animal control department to find out if there are any temporary dog fostering resources to which they can refer you.

Tips for Walking Your Dog During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Look, Don’t Touch

While dogs have not been proven able to contract COVID-19 or carry and transmit the coronavirus to other animals or people, the virus can be carried on a dog’s hair or skin where it can, then, be transmitted to a person who touches the dog’s coat. Therefore, if other people express an interest in your dog while you’re out on a walk together, make sure that person doesn’t try to pet your dog or otherwise touch your dog.

Likewise, avoid letting your dog play with other dogs or even sniff each other closely, as the virus can also hop from one dog’s skin or coat to another’s. Again, while this poses no known risk to the dogs themselves, it can most certainly pose a risk to any people who come in contact with the dogs and any people they come in contact with thereafter, and so on.

An Ounce of Prevention

For extra safety, before and after every walk, wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. You may even want to carry around some hand sanitizer with you on the walk to use as you come into unexpected contact with random objects or people. Additionally, wipe off your dog’s paws and wipe down his or her coat before reentering your home. Consider sanitizing the dog’s collar and leash before and after each walk as well.

The Right Time and Place

Consider carefully when and where you will walk your dog. Try to pick times of day or night when not a lot of other people are out and about, whether walking their own dogs or commuting to and from work. Pick places to walk your dog that are relatively unpopulated, or at least lacking in excessive crowds or traffic.

Tips for Social Distancing While Walking Your Dog

Avoiding other people and dogs can be difficult while out in the world, especially if the only safe place to walk your dog is in a dog park. Therefore, follow these simple suggestions to abide by physical distancing guidelines while walking your dog:

  • Set a time limit for your walk.
  • Keep your dog leashed at all times.
  • Keep yourself and your dog at least six feet apart from other people and dogs.