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Fido and friends may end up on a short leash now that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending that cats, dogs and other animals keep the same social distancing as recommended for humans.

According to federal health officials, a small number of animals — including dogs and cats — were reported to test positive for COVID-19 after coming in close contact with an infected person.

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The CDC advises owners to avoid letting pets interact with people or animals outside their own households. That means keeping cats indoors if possible and walking dogs on a leash, staying at least 6 feet from other animals or people. It’s best to avoid dog parks and other public places where many people and dogs gather.

If someone is sick, they should isolate themselves from people and pets in the household.

“We’re learning from day to day about this disease, so it’s better to be cautious,” said veterinarian Graham Brayshaw, director of animal services for the Animal Humane Society in Golden Valley. “If the CDC says to social distance your dog, that’s what I’d do.

“You want your animals to be safe, so use social distancing with other people and other animals. But don’t worry about your dog giving you COVID.”

Pet owners should continue to interact with their pets, take them for a walk on a leash or play in the backyard, said Dr. Matt Boyle, president of the Minnesota Veterinary Medical Association. But avoiding dog parks would be “the socially responsible thing to do.”

That might be a hard sell for many humans and their dogs.

A cat might want to lounge across a keyboard all day, but Kelly Forfang’s two rescue dogs expect to be at the Bloomington off-leash dog park every day at 4 p.m. “It’s our saving grace,” she said Tuesday.

While owners social distance from others, their dogs often romp and run together. At times, they nudge a stranger for a pat or a treat, oblivious to the threat of COVID-19.

For Otter, Alex Norlander’s 4-year-old mutt, the open space gives him the 5-mile run he wouldn’t get otherwise, and Winnie, Lisa Pertle’s 2-year-old golden retriever, gets the people-love she craves. “She thinks everyone has a treat,” Pertle explained.

As long as the dog park is open, Sean Madigan expects he and others will continue to visit. A walk on a leash just won’t do the trick for Leon, his 2-year-old black and tan coonhound.

Madigan has so far followed all the CDC recommendations to reduce COVID-19 spread. He stays home except to run to the grocery and liquor store and make trips to the dog park. “This is one place that’s our safe haven,” he said. “With everything else going on, I want to keep coming here.”

Mary Lynn Smith • 612-673-4788

Connie Nelson • 612-673-7087