Animal shelters adjust to dip in volunteers amid pandemic

Posted at 4:02 PM, Apr 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-06 21:14:06-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — San Diego animal shelters rely heavily on volunteers, from cleaning food bowls to taking animals on walks.

But stay at home orders across California have forced shelters to adjust staffing while meeting the needs of their animals.

San Diego Humane Society said volunteers are practicing social distancing and high-risk volunteers are staying at home. Despite this, staffing hasn't impacted animal care. Foster care has played a large part.

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"Our animals are still getting the same exceptional care they always have," said Nina Thompson, with SDHS. "However, we currently have more animals in foster homes — 380 animals are currently in foster homes. That’s 59 percent of our total animal population."

While many volunteers are fostering animals, SDHS invited the public to apply to do the same here. There's currently a waiting list of more than 2,000 people.

For the sake of social distancing, Rancho Coastal Humane Society suspended offering pet adoptions in March. With no adoptions, that frees staff up from adoption interviews to focus on animal care.

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Foster care has helped them out as well.

"They're getting the regular care, they're getting their medical care," John Van Zante, with Rancho Coastal Humane, said. "We're relying on our senior volunteers ... our foster program is just huge. We started by taking any of the pets that didn't need any day-to-day medical care and sending them home to fosters,"

At least 35 animals from Rancho Coastal are staying at foster homes. With more pets in foster care, that allows the society to take in animals from other shelters with nowhere to go.

Helen Woodward Animal Center has also seen a drop in volunteers because of stay at home orders.

"This means that we have leaner staff of animal care technicians. The adoptions volunteers main duty is to walk the dogs and obviously this has decreased. We still have a couple of people each day to walk the dogs but the frequency is less than our normal operating conditions," said Jessica Gercke, of Helen Woodward Animal Center.

The center says despite this, adoptions have actually increased and the center has booked appointments for weeks with prospective adopters.

"This means that our orphan pets are here for an even shorter time than they usually remain at the shelter so, as you can imagine, this does all of our hearts good," Gercke adds.