- Foster networks
Shelters across the country have successfully moved a record number of animals into foster instead of holding them in the shelter. The purpose was to swiftly decrease the population to a) allow for fewer people to be in the shelter working to increase social distancing and b) to give shelters capacity to hold emergency surrenders from COVID-affected households. In some areas, adoption before spay-neuter is actually illegal; faced with this challenge some shelters have made all of their unaltered-pet adopters into new foster care providers until surgery can take place. Both municipal and non-profit shelters have been amazed and grateful at all of the folks coming forward to help, and hope to keep using these new fosters—and recruit more—in the future.
- Virtual meet and greets
Animals on the adoption floor and in foster are meeting prospective adopters via Zoom and Face-time. This allows adopters to see the animal as they are with familiar people, allows staff to show off the pets’ cute antics better than in a photo, and gives the adopters opportunity to ask questions about the animal to its daily caretakers. Shelters love being able to process adoptions electronically, without the hassle (and exposure risk) of foster pets returning to the shelter. Dr. Julie Levy recommended this post about a cat being adopted over Facetime. Click here to view.
- Engaging the community regarding stray animals
With astonishing success, some municipalities are taking in only 25% of the stay animals taken in during the same time period last year. This is due to empowering community members to find owners, helping finders care for healthy strays, and an increase in social media and poster advertising on the parts of the shelters. Michelson Found Animals Foundation’s Gina Knepp says that emphasizing animal identification tags and simplifying the finding/reclaiming processes are key factors for this process going forward.
Veterinarians, foster care coordinators, and veterinary technicians are helping foster parents with medical and behavioral concerns and bypassing the need for in-person visits. Apps like Best Friends’ Vet Access give foster parents access to a veterinarian who can help triage their issues 24/7. In some states, veterinarians are now able to examine, diagnose, and prescribe medication to pets via telemedicine appointments. Not only does this increase foster parent access to these professionals, everyone maintains a safe social distance.
- Meeting community needs
Shelters and community cat programs have been amazed at the generosity of their community in stocking food and supply drives. Bags of dog food, cat food, and cat litter are being delivered by animal control officers to food banks, homes, and other central locations. Creative ways to provide for owners in need are keeping these pets in their homes.
- Our sense of community — more are engaging in the national conversation
With webinars such as the weekly American Pets Alive Zoom meeting with >300 participants on a regular Monday, to special event webinars that attract over 1000 people on Facebook live, this is a moment when people in our industry seem to all be engaged and talking together about creative solutions to a common crisis. The collective learning and discussions about working together and presenting a united front to our communities is especially heartening. Almost everyone feels the desire to keep this sort of engagement going—especially the part about talking to each other instead of about each other. Exactly how we do this is yet to be determined, but everyone sees that the need is clear.