Coronavirus Creates New Breed Of Problems For Local Animal Shelters

cat and dog from Rescue Village
Geauga Humane Society's Rescue Village has placed its adoptable pets in foster homes until normal operations can resume. [Geauga Humane Society Rescue Village / Facebook]

Animal shelters are permitted to continue operating during the stay-at-home order issued by Gov. Mike DeWine. But many Northeast Ohio shelters are opting to scale back operations to protect staff and conserve supplies through the pandemic.

Geauga Humane Society's Rescue Village is closed to the public until April 4, said Executive Director Hope Brustein, and has moved its adoptable pets into foster homes.

In-person adoptions are suspended, she said, as are all non-essential and elective surgeries, including spaying and neutering animals.

“We are going to look at new ways of doing adoptions from remote locations, never compromising the safety of either the adopters or the fosters,” she said. Rescue Village is relying on a network of more than 100 families to ensure the animals are taken care of through this crisis, Brustein said.

The organization is considering staying closed to the public past April 4, she said, because coronavirus pandemic conditions are not likely to have improved sufficiently by that time.

Rescue Village also plans to expand its Pet Food Pantry program, Brustein said, which helps pet owners experiencing financial difficulties get food for their animals. The group is accepting a limited number of calls for pet food pickup and delivery as well as sending supplies to food pantries to offer alongside other groceries.

“In a time of really growing unemployment and difficulty with people financially, one of the things that we can help to do is to provide food for people who need it in order to keep their pets with them,” Brustein said.

But the organization needs donations to facilitate the extended program, she said.

“We are dealing with sick, injured, abused and neglected animals, and surrenders on a case-by-case basis,” Brustein said. “But we are also working via phone with pet owners to see, what do we need to do to get you to keep your animal in your home?”

Cleveland’s Animal Protective League (APL) is also changing its operations because of the virus.

APL is restricting animal intake to only animals in emergencies or crisis, said Executive Director Sharon Harvey, and has moved as many animals as possible into foster homes. All remaining pets will be adopted by appointment only.

“It’s an awful balance and we’re all making the best decisions we can,” Harvey said.

Only essential surgeries or those that relieve pain and suffering will be permitted and the volunteer program has been suspended in an effort to limit the number of people coming and going from APL’s building, Harvey said.

“We do anticipate a very sad downstream impact from this and all the progress that we have made, both through our Trap, Neuter, Return program and getting community cats sterilized so they don’t have those unwanted litters,” she said. “But also, in the number of kittens being born on the street… we may have to defer that intake for the time being.”

APL is considering options for allowing people to adopt pets that have not been spayed or neutered, Harvey said. Surgeries, including those on animals, require using personal protective equipment like gloves and masks that are already in short supply for treating COVID-19 patients and protecting healthcare providers.

“We would place those animals in a foster arrangement with an adoptive home, and then provide a voucher for them to come back once we are up and running again to get those animals sterilized,” she said.

APL is also working to provide a small amount of pet food deliveries for those in financial trouble, Harvey said. But that program relies on donations from others in the community, she said, and donations have gone down during the pandemic.

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