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The COVID-19 pandemic has caused uncertainty and stress for many people, businesses and organizations - including animal shelters. Our special connection with animals has survived the worst of times and this will be no different. But to get through this crisis, we need to come together and help how we can. Here are 10 ways to help animal shelters during the coronavirus pandemic.
Adoption is a great way to help shelters in general, but especially right now. Because they have reduced the number of staff and volunteers, many shelters are under more stress than normal. Adopting a dog will either help take an animal off the staff's hands or open a space for one in need.
Most shelters post available dogs online, so you can check them out before going in. Make sure to email or call in advance, as many shelters are now only offering visits by appointment. You can also schedule a virtual meet-and-greet first with many shelters. Right now, it's best to only visit the shelter if you plan to adopt. Once you arrive at the shelter, stay in the car and call to let them know you're there. They'll instruct you on the next steps.
Along the same lines, fostering an animal is a great way to help during the COVID-19 pandemic. Right now, shelters may be experiencing an increase in requests for taking in sick pets or animals of hospitalized people. Again, email or call in advance to arrange your foster. You may just end up giving that animal a forever home, as fostering sometimes turns into adopting.
Sponsoring a pet's adoption fee means that you pay the typical fee now, so someone can adopt them at no cost in the future. When an adoption fee is already paid, it makes it easier for animals to be adopted. Other fees you can sponsor include spaying, neutering and other medical bills.
Donations are always helpful for shelters. Contact them or visit their website to see what they need most. Some shelters will prefer cash support, while others may be in need of supplies like food, beds, blankets and toys. In addition, you can also work with a shelter to donate support for the community. This will help lower-income and impoverished families greatly impacted by COVID-19 and the resulting reduced work.
Pro Tip: Ask the shelter how you can help. Every shelter's needs are different and some may be low on supplies right now, while others could use cash donations.
For now, it's best to limit in-person volunteering to reduce the exposure of people to COVID-19 and prevent its spread. But that doesn't mean you can't still volunteer virtually. A few ways include but are not limited to customer service, following up with the references of potential adopters, answering questions and helping with training (if experienced). Ask the shelter how you can volunteer from afar right now and plan to offer in-person help in the future.
There is currently a “Clear the Shelter” campaign where shelters use social media to try to get their animals into homes as fast as possible. These homes could be either foster or adoptive ones, but both will help reduce the stress shelters are experiencing. Sharing the campaign on social media or with friends and family will increase exposure, as well as the chances of getting animals adopted.
Many shelters have had to cancel their spring fundraising events because of the pandemic. But virtual fundraisers can still accomplish similar goals while adhering to social distancing. You can set up your own virtual fundraiser for a specific shelter (through Facebook, for instance), then share it on social media or with friends and family.
Although Amazon is temporarily prioritizing certain items (such as household staples, medical supplies and other high-demand products), you can still shop the site. But instead of going through regular Amazon, you can shop on AmazonSmile, where a portion of your purchase goes to support charity. One option is The Humane Society of the United States or you can use the search function to find a charity you want to receive donations.
Keeping your own dog safe during this time will reduce the chance that he or she gets lost and ends up at an already stressed shelter. Make sure your dog is wearing a collar with identification tags or is microchipped and keep him or her on a leash when you go out.
Sometimes things don't work out with a pet. Usually, the solution is to re-home the animal or surrender them to a shelter. But because shelters are under more stress right now, it's best to try to keep your pet if possible. If not, see if there's a friend, family member or someone on social media who could help. That could mean anything - like providing a new home, buying food and supplies, helping with training, offering to walk your dog and beyond.