DEAR READERS: Authorities in the United Kingdom — like those in the United States and most other countries — have not managed this pandemic following the four pillars of disease control, say two U.K. veterinarians. Those pillars are biosecurity, biocontainment, surveillance and resilience, and they must be applied concurrently. 

I would add a fifth pillar: bioremediation, meaning the restoration of natural, disease-limiting biodiversity in ecosystems, and also in our farming and food-production industries. Without massive applications of vaccinations, antibiotics and other drugs to animals in factory farms — which epidemiologically mirror our crowded cities, slums and refugee camps — these facilities would not be productive and would succumb to disease.

The African swine fever virus (affecting only pigs up to now), for which there is no vaccine, has swept across Asia into some European countries, and the U.S. is on the alert. The only control measure authorities have taken is the mass slaughter of millions of infected pigs.

The Trump administration’s press conferences downplaying high human mortalities in susceptible communities, and promising accelerated development of vaccines and various drug trials, are seen by some critics as bordering on criminal negligence while pandering to the pharmaceutical and vaccine industries. This is the antithesis of preventive medicine and effective pandemic preparedness and control protocols — essentially generating profits for a few at the expense of many.

It is up to us all to practice due diligence and follow the guidelines of the CDC and recognized health experts, especially with regard to the airborne spread of this virus in confined and crowded places. Facial masks are imperative. Since some people can pass this virus in their feces, extra precautions are called for in locations such as nursing homes, food preparation areas, swimming pools, public restrooms and laundry facilities.

It is also advisable not to pet other people’s dogs when walking outdoors, and to avoid allowing one’s own dogs to make contact with others, because they may carry the virus from infected owners. Such dog-to-human transmission has not yet been reported, but the precautionary principle should be applied.

DEAR DR. FOX: Animals were never exiled from Paradise, just humans. Ergo, all of them will return there when they die. (WE, on the other hand ...) And I remember that the Creator took delight in making animals, so I must help keep them safe. The Creator loves them! They’re never “ours” to do with as we please. — S.M., Plymouth, Indiana

DEAR S.M.: I know many people will appreciate your words and share your sentiment, while others consider other animals inferior and made for human use. These two “cultures” have long been in conflict from age to age. When we see clearly what we have done to planet Earth and the plight of all of God’s earthly creation, it is surely time to make amends for such “original sin.” I like the words of philosopher Meister Eckhart: “Every creature is a word of God.”

For atheists and agnostics, there can be no denying that other animals possess intelligence — in some cases, far more advanced than ours — and that many species show evidence of empathy. So there is no reason other than brute ignorance and indifference for humans not to treat other life forms with respect and consideration.

Inhuman fishing practices revisited

Because walleye and other species of fish are dwindling in numbers in some of Minnesota’s lakes, the state’s Department of Natural Resources is stipulating that walleyes can only be caught and released (ditto certain other species). Some people who fish contend that the DNR “overestimates the mortality rates of walleyes caught and released” (Star Tribune, March 18). Regardless of mortality rates from the stress, injuries and secondary infections from being caught on a hook and struggling to escape while being reeled in — a process that can last for several hours with large fish — we should all consider the fact that scientists have documented that fish feel pain and have a range of emotions, from fear to caregiving.

Knowing these facts, even if the fish survive being caught and released, those who fish should consider if it is worth making fish suffer physically and emotionally simply for their own “sporting” enjoyment. We need more empathy in many segments of society. What better evidence of such deficiency than keeping live fish on a line strung through their mouths and gills, trailing behind a boat? This practice should be outlawed on humane grounds, and quick kill after catching mandated. For details about fish intelligence, sentience and efforts to improve their welfare and protection, visit

Resources for COVID-19 patients with pets

The American Veterinary Medical Association is offering help for people infected with the coronavirus who have companion animals in their homes, and also offering additional information to help us all with our animals during this crisis. Visit for more information.

Study to measure pets’ susceptibility

Researchers at the University of Washington and Washington State University are collaborating on a study measuring pets’ susceptibility to SARS-CoV-2, and are seeking local participants. Pet owners in the area who have been diagnosed with a novel coronavirus infection within the last two weeks can sign up online, and researchers will go to their homes to test dogs, cats, ferrets and hamsters at no cost. 

Send all mail to or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns. Visit Dr. Fox’s website at

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