DECATUR, Ill. (AP) — Even during a stay-at-home order, animals might require routine or emergency veterinary care.


Like restaurants, many area vets are offering curbside service.


“We’re still scheduling appointments,” said Dr. Jared Hunter, co-owner of Brush College Animal Hospital with Dr. Jennifer Owen. “When people arrive, the doors to the lobby are locked, and when you come, just call and wait in your car and we have a technician go out and receive the patient. We take (the animal) inside and perform the procedure. I will go out and talk to owners at a safe distance. We collect payment from outside, too.”


The practice makes exceptions if euthanasia is required, to allow people to be with their animals for that, he said, while still practicing social distancing.


Most people are understanding, he said, though some don’t see the necessity for the precautions. He said he’s glad the weather is springlike so going outside to speak to them is possible.


Gov. J.B. Pritzker on March 13 closed restaurants and bars, then issued the stay-at-home order a week later, telling people to limit going outside for only essentials, like groceries and medication. The order was supposed to end Tuesday but has been extended until the end of the month.


Veterinarians are considered an essential service, said Dr. Larry Baker of Northgate Pet Clinic, and to be as safe as possible, his staff cleans the clinic several times a day with a disinfectant. They wipe down everything they might have touched, including doorknobs.


They also offer curbside service, with people waiting outside while a staff member goes out to the car to get the animal and bring it inside. Occasionally, an animal is too unruly for that to work and in those cases, the owner has to come in, too, but those are rare exceptions.


“Everyone understands,” Baker said. “We all wash our hands several times a day and employees have their temperature taken when they come to work in the morning.”


The Sacks of Illiopolis just got a new puppy, Piper, and Heidi Sack took Piper to Northgate for her first vet visit.


“Lots of attention to my questions,” she said. ”(They) took the dog in to be checked out while I asked lots of questions. Brought her back and answered lots more questions and I paid. It worked perfectly.”


The practice is asking customers to hold off on vaccinations if possible, but if their animals need care, they’ll take care of them, Baker said.


Michelle Dixson took her dog to Northgate to have his anal glands expressed, and the technician brought back a greeting from the veterinarian.


“The vet tech came out to talk to me and answered all my questions,” she said. “Our vet even saw our dog outside and sent out a message to tell us ‘hi.’”


They treated one 20-year-old cat, whose owner was elderly and sick, but not with coronavirus. A family member brought the cat to the clinic, and the staff wiped down the cat with disinfectant and wore glasses, gloves and masks to treat it in the car rather than taking it inside.


“We’re taking all the precautions we can,” he said.


Some veterinary hospitals also are donating breathing machines, masks, gowns and other vital equipment and supplies to help humans during the pandemic.


“We buy at the same stores,” said Paul Lunn, dean of the North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine in Raleigh, which on Monday turned over two full-service ventilators, 500 protective suits and 950 masks for use in area hospitals. “There’s no difference in the equipment.”


In response to a call last week by U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue for materials to combat the pandemic, vet schools from North Carolina to Colorado to New York are stepping up.


There are 30 fully accredited veterinary medical schools in 26 states, according to the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges. Of those, 27 have veterinary teaching hospitals with comprehensive services treating everything from pet cats and dogs to horses and other large animals. Lunn said the schools have identified more than six dozen ventilators that could be commandeered for human treatment.


The 2009 outbreak of H1N1 influenza had veterinarians readying to help in this kind of emergency, he added: “This isn’t the first time we’ve prepared for this, although it’s the first time in my personal experience that we’ve actually had to pull the trigger.”