Pandemic Pets: shelters push through the pandemic

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Before the pandemic, potential pet adopters flooded animal shelters, easily captivated by a pet in need, ready to make an emotional connection that would last a lifetime. The friendly meows and barks drew in future families of these pets, and welcoming staff and volunteers aided adopters in finding their new best friend. The staff could wave their favorite dogs and cats out the door as they went to their new homes. Oftentimes there were bins overflowing with generous donations consisting of endless toys and treats for the animals, making their stay in the shelter enjoyable until they were adopted.

However, in the midst of the crisis, the atmosphere of many shelter has changed drastically. Though the animals are still there, people have seen their own personal situations change. For shelters in Noblesville, these changes have had many different effects. Some students at NHS are working to help shelters in this time of need. Macy Millspaugh, president of a recently-formed club, Lend A Paw (LAPC), stresses that now, more than ever, shelters are in need of our help. The club was designed with the intention of providing students at NHS the opportunity to assist local shelters in need.

“LAPC spreads awareness for our partner shelters through social media, donation drives, word of mouth, and through our meetings. We try to inform people about not only the animals in need but the needs of the employees and the shelters themselves,” Millspaugh said.

The club acts as a voice for shelters and animals, conveying their needs to the students of NHS in hopes of raising awareness. While the aftermath of the pandemic has benefited some shelters, Millspaugh tries to remind students that negative effects still remain.

“It’s very important to assist local shelters right now. The current circumstances have led to higher adoptions for many, but also have created a lack of volunteer help and an increase in animal intakes,” Millspaugh said.
Animal shelters have continued to care for pets in need during the pandemic, despite the variety of current outcomes. For the president and founder of another organization Redemption Rescue, Amanda Ryan, the positives outweigh the negatives.

“Covid has actually caused people to open up their homes because they are home and now have the time to foster,” Ryan said.

As many are now encouraged to spend a most of their time at home, the mental health of some people has declined. However, in response, many have turned to pet adoption to help improve this issue.

“People have begun to surround themselves with pets due to their mental state. I have many fosters who say fostering is a therapy for them during this time,” Ryan said.

The pandemic has presented a large challenge for Redemption Rescue, including being unable to run normal

fundraisers. Social media has proven to be Redemption’s greatest asset in raising funds.

“The hardest part is cancelling all of our fundraisers and events. We have worked hard to save funds and find more creative ways like online fundraisers and Facebook posts to raise the funds we need,” Ryan said.

Rescues and shelters rely heavily on the generosity of the community during times like these. Jennifer Hatche, the outreach manager at the Hamilton County Humane Society, admits the shelter has had many challenges in their fundraising efforts due to new COVID guidelines.

“COVID affected all of our major fundraising events this year – Wine, Wags & Whiskers, Woofstock, and Tinsel & Tails. We projected the lost revenue from Wine, Wags & Whiskers and Woofstock to be approximately $250,000,” Hatche said.

Luckily, the worries of loss of revenue were resolved, as their new online approach to fundraising came through and helped the shelter’s funds

“Tinsel & Tails raised more money this year despite being all virtual, netting $251,159 compared to $150,844 last year,” Hatche said.

Fundraising isn’t the only changed aspect of this shelter, as the environment and process of adoption has been impacted greatly as well. With the help of foster families, the amount of people in the building has decreased.

“We have changed many of our procedures including temporarily altering our intake procedures, staff who are able to have worked from home in order to decrease the number of individuals at the shelter, and we’ve limited the amount of people in the shelter to allow proper social distancing,” Hatch said.

Indy Humane Society, a shelter in Indianapolis, has also been impacted by the pandemic, having to alter their services and change the way in which they operate. Hayley Wolf, Indy Humane’s marketing manager, says the pandemic changed their ability to interact with and help the community.

“Many of our services – adoptions, low-cost vaccine and spay and neuter services, and outreach and events – were forced to operate at a lessened capacity in the interest of public health, but the community need is greater than ever,” Wolf said.

Even during a global pandemic, a large number of staff and volunteers are needed to take care of all the animals in a shelter’s care. During this time, foster families became an important asset to Indy Humane, as it allowed for them to meet COVID guidelines in their shelter.

“Not only do our foster families help our shelter pets, but moving the majority of these animals to foster homes during the heart of the pandemic allowed our staff to stay safe as
well. These foster families truly make the world a better place not only for the homeless pets in our community, but for the shelter staff too.” Wolf said. “Thanks to these generous families, more than 1,500 animals spent time in a foster home in 2020.

Though many shelters have seen an increase in adoptions, the increase in families being unable to take care of their pets due to the pandemic has also risen. Indy Humane has also seen a decrease in adoptions due to the inability to interact with the public.

“In total, 2,702 animals were adopted from IndyHumane in 2020. This is a decrease from past years, at least partially due to our decision in March to close to the public, cease almost all off-site events and outreach, and facilitate adoptions by appointment only with online applications,” Wolf said.

As Redemption Rescue, Hamilton County Humane Society, and Indy Humane continue to operate, LAPC puts their best foot forward to help these shelters in any way possible, despite their own challenges.

“In the past, we had a holiday event as well as our Thanksgiving drive, but this year the inability to finish our donation drive as fast with limited student capacity each day, as well as the two weeks of finals, meant that we had to skip our holiday event and focus only on the donation drive,” Millspaugh said.

Despite the obstacles the club has had to face, Millspaugh continues to urge students to help local shelters.

“We encourage everyone to look into options that they
or their families can take to help — foster homes are always needed for animals while they wait to be adopted, volunteers can help to keep the shelter clean or to provide emotional support to animals, and donations of any kind reduce operating costs. Even just sharing a post on your preferred social media to raise awareness helps,” Millspaugh said.

Parker Sikora, a member of the Lend A Paw club, appreciates the efforts made by many individuals to support businesses. Sikora believes in the goals which keep the club motivated to continue to help shelters.

“As a club, we have three motivating goals that inspire the ways we contribute to the shelters,” Sikora said. “Our three goals are to increase teenage volunteerism at the Hamilton County Humane Society, inform and educate Noblesville students and the community at large about the Humane Society’s needs, and aid in gathering their necessary funds and materials to run their local organization efficiently and with the best care for the animals,” Sikora said.

However, Sikora still emphasizes the importance of teenage volunteering, as it is a crucial component for LAPC and for local animal shelters.

“This pandemic has been difficult for most businesses
and organizations and it is great to see people our age out volunteering and supporting local businesses, but during such times of trouble we can sometimes overlook the animals who also need our help too,” Sikora said. “Teenage volunteerism helps so many organizations and events within our community for people and volunteering at the Humane Society not only helps the individuals who keep the place running, but the animals being supported as well.”

Shelters everywhere have been struggling to adapt to the pandemic, as more and more animals are in need of a home. While the world has seemed to close down, these shelters do not have a choice but to persevere. Wolf says that while the shelters may have had to change the way they operate, their goals have stayed the same.

“COVID-19 has had a profound impact on our community and our organization. Thanks to our faithful supporters, though, we were able to continue taking in, caring for, and adopting out cats, dogs, kittens, and puppies. Many of our services, programs, and operations have changed, but our primary mission has never wavered,” Wolf said.