HAO Covid Care Guidelines For Graduates and Students

Under the existing guidance it is recognised that animals with pain or have welfare issues need to be seen and that this includes all pathologies. As part of the work that insured HAO graduates and students undertake, there can be significant hands-on work with our client’s pets.

At this time, there remains no evidence that pets are implicated in the transmission of Covid 19 to people and infection of the pet is rare. There is some risk of the virus potentially being carried from person to person on pets and their belongings, although scientific assessment is now that such transmission is relatively unlikely.

It is essential that when HAO graduates and students carry out their work with their client’s pets, that the safety of both the HAO individual and the client are protected and the risks of spreading Covid 19 are minimised. These guidelines have been drawn up to help HAO graduates and students while they carry out their practical sessions.

Risk Assessment

The professional judgement of the HAO graduate or student, based on a thorough risk assessment, should always lead the decision as to whether it is safe to attend and work with a pet. It is essential that a written Covid risk assessment is carried out when completing the consult form and kept with the client files. Including those where treatment is refused and the reasons why, with documented details of the explanation to the client. Make sure all home visits are risked assessed very carefully. Things to consider should include, but are not limited to:-

  • Only see regular clients if possible, this reduces the risk to you and the clients and eases the process of risk assessment.
  • For new referrals of non-regular clients, have a close liaison with the vet so you can discuss the risks and set up of the treatment environment, as well as the clinical condition.
  • Attempt to remove the need to handle payments. Request payment by BACS/credit card/PayPal.
  • Consider if the session can be conducted completely remotely via Zoom or video call.
  • To reduce the amount of time spent on the visit, email the animal consultation form to be completed, signed and electronically emailed back to you. Then go through the consultation form either by telephone or using video call prior to your arrival.
  • Contact your client before the visit to discuss how the work will be carried out to minimise risks.
  • Ensure that if either yourself or your client, or anyone in their household, feels unwell that the visit is rescheduled. No appointments should be made with anyone who has Covid symptoms or who is in close contact with anyone with Covid symptoms. There must be a 14-day quarantine period for them, prior to seeing them. If you have symptoms do not visit clients. Get tested, and await a clear result, prior to seeing any clients.
  • Consider whether your client is clinically vulnerable. If they are, can the session be carried out remotely or delayed? If not, make sure there are no face-to-face interactions for example when answering the door. Increase hand washing and increase consideration of wearing face coverings.
  • Consider if you can conduct the session outside, otherwise use risk mitigations for when working indoors (see below).
  • Regularly wash hands and clean surfaces and equipment.
  • Ask clients to wear face coverings and wear one yourself especially if social distancing will be difficult and/or you are indoors. Please be mindful of the exemptions for face coverings, this includes (but is not limited to):
    • children under the age of 11
    • people who cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or impairment, or disability
    • where putting on, wearing or removing a face covering will cause you severe distress
    • if you are speaking to or providing assistance to someone who relies on lip reading, clear sound or facial expressions to communicate
  • Politely refuse the offer of food or drink provided by the pet owner and also avoid sharing tools and equipment with the client, such as pens and paper etc.
  • Ensure social distancing of 2m can be complied with, or 1m with risk mitigations (see below).
  • Ensure the animal is ready and waiting for you (i.e. no putting on head collars, leads, harnesses etc and that unnecessary handling of the owner’s equipment is minimised).
  • If possible bring your own lead if you are working with dogs.
  • Keep other pets out of the area/room you are working in to avoid unnecessary contact.
  • Equines- Keep to one handler per equine visit and if you are seeing multiple horses at one address try to nominate one owner/yard manager to deal with all horses. Please see above to complete consultation forms and procedures before your visit. Please keep anyone not involved in the visit well away from the session.
  • Can the equine, be left tied up with the owner at an appropriate distance? If not, are there any other strategies to improve safety and appropriately handle the animal? Is this a safe and respectful approach for you, the client and the animal?
  • Is this equine safe to treat with these restrictions in place?
  • We ask that all equine clients wear a face covering and gloves when expecting you and keep to strict social distancing measures where possible.


  • Risk mitigations for when working indoors and/or less than 2m social distancing;
    • Further increase the frequency of hand washing and surface cleaning.
    • Wear a face covering and ask the same of your client.
    • Using back-to-back or side-to-side working (rather than face-to-face) whenever possible.
    • Reducing the number of people each person has contact with by ensuring other members of the family are kept out of the room you are working in.
    • Increase ventilation by keeping doors and windows open where possible.
    • Ask for doors/gates to be opened for you and minimise touching surfaces.

Remember that owners should list HAO graduates and students as healthcare workers for the track and trace requirements including QR codes.

Balen Insurance UK had this to say:-

“We have been receiving a lot of emails and calls from clients and associations in relation to the guidance published by the government in relation to restriction in place across England. It does appear that many complementary, holistic and animal practitioners have not been specifically noted in many cases and therefore, the guidance provided is open to interpretation. I understand reference has been made to animal welfare. As an insurance broker, Balens are not in a position to provide definitive, specific guidance on a practitioner’s ability to trade, or the conditions applicable to such trading. We can, however, highlight how the insurance policy would respond and provide some general guidance for policyholders”.

  • Balens professional liability & malpractice policy will continue to respond (within the standard terms and conditions) providing the policyholder follows government guidelines and where relevant the advice of your professional association or governing body. These considerations should be noted or evidenced where appropriate.
  • The policy does not hold any exclusions to restrict/prevent a policyholder from practicing the activities noted on their schedule, however, the policy does include an exclusion against criminal, malicious, or fraudulent acts.
  • We are recommending that practitioners ensure that their risk assessments are up to date and in line with the fast-changing government advice. We would also like to highlight the importance of record keeping: notes should reflect the purpose of the treatment/consultation/visit so that the purpose of the treatment is clear, showing it is in line with the government guidelines. We also recommend noting any Covid-19 safe practices you have adapted such as the use of PPE.
  • Your policy through Balens will also cover remote or online working where this is possible. 

There is a full update on our website: www.balens.co.uk/covid.

Covid Risk Assessment Download