If any dogs test positive for Canine Distemper Virus (CDV) at the shelter, we are immediately isolating them at our medical teams counsel and attempting to get them into a foster home. Since distemper positive dogs can shed the virus to other dogs for up to 3 months, they need to be isolated for that entire period or they pose a risk to other dogs at the shelter.
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Not even the barking of dogs could drown out the silence…
The word “coronavirus” had just become familiar to the public, and all over the world people were isolating themselves in their homes.
It created a strange environment for those charged with caring for animals in shelters. A good adoption center is normally a vibrant gathering place for staff, volunteers and members of the public looking to take home a new family member.
Abruptly those crowds vanished.
The hands-on staff at the SPCA of Texas soldiered on daily. Hundreds of animals depended on them. No one knew how the disease would progress, but everyone knew the animals needed food and attention.
“The SPCA of Texas pivoted immediately to an adoption by appointment model in the new world we found ourselves in at the start of the pandemic,” SPCA of Texas President & CEO Karen Froehlich said. “We continued to place foster animals in temporary homes to decrease the number of animals onsite and give them a home environment in which to recover and wait for their forever home while taking pressure off already stressed animal care staff.
“While shutdowns and the pandemic raged on, we continued to intake the community’s most vulnerable pets through our animal cruelty investigations work. We supported pet owners with clinic services and spay and neuter surgeries at our Mary Spencer Spay/Neuter and Veterinary Care Clinic and ensured that pets stayed in their loving homes thorough support from our Russell H. Perry Pet Resource Center.”
When the initial panic of the pandemic subsided, adoption centers saw a national increase in adoptions for a time. With a new wave of employees working from home, a new companion was highly desirable. The number of animals arriving at shelters dropped as well. For a moment, numbers were trending in a good direction.
But as the shutdowns continued, the visitors to shelters who represented a new beginning for its inhabitants stopped coming. Shelters had to limit staffing, resorting to telecommuting for support positions. Workarounds had to be found to maintain necessary shelter functions like food, sanitation and medical services.
According to a January release from Best Friends Animal Society, nationwide shelter populations at the beginning of 2022 stood at approximately 100,000 more than in January 2021. There have been slightly fewer animals coming into shelters, but their time of stay has increased significantly. Effectively, this has put a strain on shelters across the country.
“We hit a particularly important milestone in September where both overall intakes and outcomes dropped below 2020 levels,” Steve Zeidman, Senior Vice President of Pethealth Software noted in a Sept. 2021 blog post. “This would normally be a great thing, but it continues to be driven by the significant drop in Transfers both into and out of shelters. While overall intakes dropped year over year, by 8.2% for cats and 0.4% for dogs, the drop for transfers was significant at 8.7% for cats and 11.1% for dogs.”
While facing the resulting increase in demand for services, America’s shelters are now playing catch-up. Fundraising events, adoptions and donations have all been hampered by the pandemic.
Meanwhile, the dogs and cats are still hoping for a forever home.
“Now that we are coming out of the crisis mode of the pandemic, we continue to experience overcrowding of animals and increased lengths of stay due to the backlog of animals that entered during the pandemic as well as an exhausted staff that could not work from home,” Froehlich said. “To increase our positive outcomes, we have expanded our mobile adoption program to take the pets to the where the people are in North Texas and have increased transports of pets out of Texas to areas of the country that have fewer homeless pets. We are placing more animals in foster homes to take pressure off staff and give the pets a home environment in which to wait for their adoption.”
“We need more help in relieving the pressure on our people and pets. Please volunteer, foster, adopt and give. That is what will lead us out the current crisis animal welfare organizations are experiencing here in North Texas and nationwide.”
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