In a May 2 press release, the township said the parks have not reopened due to uncertainty about the effects of the new coronavirus on animals.
“While it is known that it is primarily spreading from person-to-person, it appears that it can spread from people to animals in some situations as well,” the township statement said. “Until more is learned about how this virus affects animals, the township has its dog parks closed.”
Affected areas include the dog parks at Bear Branch, Cattail, Harpers Landing, Rob Fleming, Tamarac and Terramont parks. The Woodlands trails and pathways remain accessible, and portions of the township's smaller public spaces have reopened.
According to the latest information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is low risk of animals spreading COVID-19 to humans, although the virus is believed to have originated from an animal, according to the World Organisation for Animal Health. The CDC also said human-to-animal spread of the virus has been reported in certain situations and advised that pet owners avoid dog parks or other public places with large numbers of pets and humans to limit new interactions.
Thad Gloriod, veterinarian at the South Creek Animal Clinic on Gosling Road, said he recommended owners keep up with pets' exercise in The Woodlands even while dedicated parks or play areas may remain closed.
"Luckily, The Woodlands has some amazing trails. These are great places for your pets to get exercise and enjoy the outdoors. Let your pet set their own limits in regards to distance and intensity," Gloriod said in an email. "Playing fetch with a Frisbee or ball is also a great way to exercise your pet. ... Just make sure your pet is currently on flea/tick prevention, as there are fleas and ticks on these trails, and ticks can carry serious illnesses for both dogs and humans alike."
CDC guidelines also recommend that owners prevent their pets from interacting with any people or animals from outside their household. Additionally, dog owners are advised to walk their pets on a leash and maintain at least 6 feet of distance between their dog and other people or animals, while cat owners are advised to keep their pets indoors.
Gloriod said that while such social isolation may be difficult for a pet's development, it is advised for their health and community safety.
"This is probably the most difficult aspect of shelter at home; socialization of pets plays such an important role in their behaviors for life," Gloriod said. "Unfortunately, at this time, the safest practice is to isolate. Training your pet to sit beside you when another walking family comes by is a good training technique to teach manners, and then, when everyone has passed, praise the pet for the good behavior, and continue on your way."
Gloriod also said pet owners should keep up with regular veterinary services, such as vaccination, and should ask their veterinarian for advice on additional precautionary health recommendations.
The CDC’s latest information and recommendations about COVID-19 for pet owners may be viewed here.