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Northern Vermont is in the path of totality for a rare total solar eclipse on Monday, April 8.

Are you going to a solar eclipse event? Leave your dog at home

Chris Goldberg
State veterinarian Kristin Haas says that your pets are better off at home on eclipse day.

On April 8, Vermonters will experience a total solar eclipse, with a wide swath of the state falling directly inside the path of totality.

With less than a week to go, a lot of folks are finalizing their viewing plans.

But what about eclipse day safety concerns for our pets? Sure, tips for calming nerves during thunderstorms or fireworks displays are widely known, but whether it’s a dog or a chicken, are there any special considerations for domestic animals during a total solar eclipse?

To learn more, Vermont Public's Jenn Jarecki recently spoke with Vermont State Veterinarian Dr. Kristin Haas. This piece was produced for the ear. We highly recommend listening to the audio. We’ve also provided a transcript, which has been edited for length and clarity.

Jenn Jarecki: OK, let's start inside, so to speak. What considerations should listeners make for their indoor pets on eclipse day?

Kristin Haas: I would say that the best thing to keep in mind with indoor pets — thinking of especially dogs and cats, and those that are more socially oriented towards us, toward their owners — is to remember that they don't know what's going on. For them, this event will be very much like any other normal day, and the level of either awareness or perhaps anxiety that they might have could most likely be generated from our cues — from human cues. So, if we are calm and relaxed and enjoying the day, then they likely will be as well.

Jenn Jarecki: So, having been a dog walker for years, I can totally appreciate the need to keep those routines intact. But what if you have a kitty that loves to go outside? I mean, with all the extra traffic and visitors that are expected that day, should outdoor cats have their routines disrupted on April 8?

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Haas recommends that outdoor cats remain indoors on eclipse day, mostly due to safety considerations due to higher levels of people and traffic.

Kristin Haas: I think outdoor cats are going to maybe have to take a little bit of a break from being outdoors. I think to your point, this is more to do with the human component of the day than it is to do with the animal component of the day. Left to their own devices, outdoor cats would probably be fine being outside, they have no real reason to look up at the sky spontaneously, so there isn't a risk of any damage or injury to them in that regard. It's more a matter of, as you say, the perhaps increased traffic.

If houses that have outdoor cats are closer to roads that normally are not busy — or not that busy — at certain times of the mid-day, we can expect them to perhaps be a little bit busier, the risk of car interactions perhaps rises a bit. And just the overall, you know, change in their external environment is going to be different. So, if people can stomach having their outdoor cats a little angry at them for a very short period of time, it might be ideal to keep them in somewhere where they can be safe.

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Jenn Jarecki: So, Kristin, you mentioned that our pets really take their cues from us. You know, let's say someone's really excited about going to an eclipse viewing party, and they want to bring their dog along. What might you say to that?

Kristin Haas: I understand the desire to do that. I spend a lot of time with my dogs and try to take them to different places and have different experiences with them. I would say in this particular instance, just because we don't really know what the level of, you know, human disruption and level of increased population and all of that sort of thing is going to be, I think it's probably best to leave pets home from viewing parties.

So, if we are calm and relaxed and enjoying the day, then they likely will be as well.
Dr. Kristin Haas, state veterinarian

Jenn Jarecki: Kristin, I know Vermonters have been asked to remain on path on April 8, but what advice would you give to farmers or any outdoor pet owners who may get unexpected visitors in their fields on eclipse day?

Kristin Haas: Well, I would hope that any visitors that we might have in Vermont who are listening to this episode take this to heart and, as you said, stay on path, because we want to make sure that not only the people stay safe, but our animals stay safe and enclosed. But to help delineate that line between on-path and off-path, farmers and livestock owners should just make sure that if their fence lines and other pasture areas abut along a roadway or other public traffic way, then just making sure that their fences are intact, they might want to put up signage that you know, says "private property" or "please respect the animals." I know I've seen signs that are available that sort of fit into that kind of generic bracket.

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So, just making it as clear as possible in a pleasant, friendly way that these areas are off-limits. If there is a way to — within the animals' normal routine — to perhaps sequester them to paddocks or pastures that are away from the road, then that certainly would also be fine. And that way there's, you know, an additional buffer between the public trafficked areas and those that are private property and contain animals.

Jenn Jarecki: Kristin, what are you most looking forward to about the total solar eclipse?

Dr. Haas and her three-legged dog, Rasta
Kristin Haas
Haas and her three-legged dog, Rasta.

Kristin Haas: I am looking very much forward to — I found online a site that I believe is being — it's a study that's being sponsored and run or hosted, I guess, by University of North Carolina, and you can observe one or more animals during the eclipse and then send your findings into this group that's gathering data on animal behavior, both wild and domestic, during this event. So, I'm actually now looking forward to contributing to that, and I have to pick my animal and I think it will be my three-legged dog. See how a three-legged dog manages the eclipse. So, I will be a mini scientist for a little bit and observing my pup while also enjoying the eclipse. So, I think that's what I'm looking the most forward to at this point.

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