44 million Americans have filed for unemployment since the start of COVID-19. Between 19 and 23 million people face eviction by September 30. The federal CARES Act funding and eviction moratoriums have ended and protections have not yet been extended by Congress. As mass eviction proceedings begin, we predict animal shelters are less than two months away from seeing marked increases in owned pet intake. Prior to COVID, families struggled to find housing that was pet accessible and now, this problem is expected to be exponentially compounded by the eviction crisis. Here are three things every shelter and rescue should be doing now to prepare for what’s coming.
Since COVID began, many shelters and rescues around the nation have gone all in on fostering, housing anywhere between 50 and 90 percent of their populations in foster homes. We need to continue that trend while expanding our thinking on how foster can help. Shelters should allocate more staff and volunteer support to foster care and break down barriers to make fostering easy, accessible and convenient to everyone in your community who wants to help. Foster caregivers should be able to get their pets adopted straight from foster, without them having to return to the shelter. Finally, consider implementing a peer-to-peer foster program like 911 Foster Pets. Programs like Greater Good’s #stayhomeandfoster campaign can help you find people in your community who are waiting to foster now. For more information about building a high volume foster program on any budget, visit the Maddie’s Fund foster web page.
Providing boarding to struggling pet owners will be a key strategy for reducing the number of pets surrendered due to evictions. There are three primary needs your shelter can meet when it comes to boarding. First, you can provide short-term crisis boarding for up to 30 days, either in your shelter or with a partner boarding facility. This helps people who are hospitalized, are transitioning to new housing, or who face an immediate crisis and need a safe place for their pet. Second, you can offer boarding for up to three months for people who have been evicted and are attempting to secure new housing for themselves and their pet(s). This boarding can be done utilizing foster homes and is best when paired with pet support counseling services that assist pet owners in finding affordable housing that is pet friendly. Third, consider offering day boarding. You should expect to see some evicted pet owners living in their vehicles with their pets or living with family members or friends which can be very stressful for pets. When people living in these precarious situations need to go to work, having a safe place for their pet to go may make all the difference. You can also combine this with distributing ‘go bag’ backpacks of supplies and food.
Tragically, some families will be forced to give up their pets due to job loss and/or eviction. You can help make the rehoming process more humane for people and animals by helping people rehome their pets without surrendering them to the shelters. There are resources like Rehome and Home-to-Home that you can share with pet owners and even help them make profiles for their pets. You can also assist pet owners with posting their pets on social media sites, providing them with sample adoption questionnaires, and providing counseling and even in-person support with meet and greets. By helping people rehome their own pets, you reduce intake into the shelter system, help the original owners maintain a connection with the pet through the adoptive owner, and prevent the stress and heartache caused for people animals when pets are surrendered to the shelter.
In this unprecedented moment, you can take these three steps now to help create a true safety net for your community’s pets and people. As we face ever-increasing challenges due to COVID-19, our role in the community must shift to support the bonds between people and pets like never before. To learn more about these and other strategies, visit the Human Animal Support Services web page.
The dog pictured in the banner image for this blog was boarded at PACC while the shelter helped get the owner's fence repaired and addressed his landlord's concerns.