What Animal Shelters are Doing to Flatten the Curve and Still Save Animal Lives


Kasey Spain
American Pets Alive! Marketing & Communications Senior Manager
(c) 817.456.5370
(e) [email protected]

What Animal Shelters are Doing to Flatten the Curve and Still Save Animal Lives

American Pets Alive! (AmPA!) launched the American Pets Alive! COVID-19 Animal Shelter Preparedness Guide last week to help other shelters and rescues prepare for the COVID-19 pandemic. The shelters using AmPA! protocols have been working hard to keep their staff and communities safe while maintaining lifesaving operations for animals.

Dividing Teams to Avoid Spread

Jacksonville Humane Society, an AmPA! COVID-19 Preparedness Partner, set up A/B teams in their offices to minimize the number of people coming in contact with one another. A team members work one week, while the B team members are remote, so that if someone gets sick, it’s less likely to infect the entire team.

Drive Thru Fostering

Shelters have been doing big foster pushes to help with the reduced onsite staff, and to help flatten the curve with the decrease in adoptions. Pima Animal Care Center is offering drive through fostering and adoptions in an effort to follow social distancing by allowing less people into the shelter and adoption center spaces.

Too Many Fosters? Share with Neighboring Shelters

Austin Pets Alive! has done a significant foster push across all platforms thanks to the hard work of their marketing team, and they have been sharing fosters with the city shelter, Austin Animal Center. They gained more publicity for fostering when they shared that Antoni Porowski from Netflix’s Queer Eye, who is currently in Austin for filming, had decided to foster a dog named Neon and spoke briefly on the importance of fostering during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This was a great marketing opportunity for Austin Pets Alive!, and other shelters are finding great ways to market during the pandemic.

Getting Creative with Social Media

The Humane Society of Harlingen has found success promoting dogs for adoption with photos showing animals with fun signs related to the pandemic. Some of the signs featured say things like:

Kansas Humane Society shared a photo of a cat, Siri, captioned “When you’re not stressing about toilet paper because you poop in a box.” Similar to Humane Society of Harlingen’s marketing tactics, this post is pushing adoptions and fostering of these individual animals.

Creative Adoption Specials

Other ways shelters have been working to flatten the curve and save more animal lives through this pandemic are through adoption specials. Adam Ricci of Albuquerque Animal Welfare stated that “Due to the fee waived adoptions we have plateaued our shelter population the past couple of days.”

Transporting Animals to Other Shelters

Michelle Dosson, Norfolk Animal Care and Adoption Center Bureau Manager, shared that while Norfolk Animal Care Center has had to close its doors, they were able to do a two day, $20 adoption event before. They had 50 adoptions made, and five animals went into foster. Michelle Dosson also said they have almost 100 official new applications for foster, and over 400 more email inquiries about fostering!

“The first day was so successful, we pulled 15 animals from a neighboring shelter, Peninsula Regional Animal Shelter (PRAS) to help them- all of which went home. Every animal in our building currently on stray hold that is available for adoption have at least one adoption application on them, all of them have backup foster.” - Michelle Dosson

Being Transparent about Needs

Teresa Johnson, Executive Director of KC Pet Project (another of the AmPA! COVID-19 Preparedness Partners), shared that they were able to hold a three day $30 adoption event last weekend, resulting in 68 adoptions! But, they’ve been doing even more since then according to Tori Fugate, their Chief Communications Officer. Tori shared what KC Pet Project has been doing to save more animal lives during this time, and keep their staff safe. They shared this foster plea that had over a thousand shares on Facebook and shared a press release asking for the public’s help and explaining the importance behind KC Pet Project staying open. They had a great response!

“Just in the last two days, we had more than 250 people sign up to be an emergency foster, we’ve sent out 26 large breed dogs with fosters, 19 adult cats with fosters, processed 51 adoptions, 2 Returns To Owner (RTO), and 12 hard-to-place dogs were transferred out to rescue groups. In total, we’ve moved 110 pets out of our shelter in just 48 hours!” says Tori Fugate.

Taking Social Distancing Seriously

KC Pet Project has also tried out a “Tweetalong,” setting up a page about coronavirus and how people can help, and have taken social distancing measures in their shelter operations such as providing a curbside service for fosters picking up animals.

Collaboration Across the Nation

American Pets Alive! has a support group set up on Facebook where these shelters are interacting and collaborating on what is working for them. Seeing the camaraderie during this crisis is inspiring. In one thread, shelters were sharing what appointment scheduling tools they are using to help with social distancing. Sarah Aguilar from Pima Animal Care Center, Lauren Lipsey from Humane Rescue Alliance, APA!’s Dr. Ellen Jefferson, and Megan Aubrey of Tenth Life Cat Rescue shared about the various scheduling tools they’ve used that are working great for their shelters! This includes Acuity Scheduling, Waitwhile, and Calendly. All of these tools have allowed shelters to keep their staff and visitors safe by limiting the number of people actually entering the various shelter spaces, and preventing the gathering of too many people.

Supporting the Neighborhood Food Pantry to Reduce Owner Surrendering

Gateway Pet Guardians, another AmPA! COVID-19 Preparedness Partner, had the unique idea to donate dog and cat food, kitty litter, and treats to the food pantry to support local families who may be struggling to take care of their pets right now due to loss of income. This is a great way to lessen the likelihood of owners surrendering their pets, and therefore, flatten the curve.

Leaving Healthy Outdoor Cats Alone

LA Animal Services is directing community members to “release [cats] where they were trapped,” laying stakes counter to the long debate in Los Angeles County over releasing cats to their outdoor habitats. According to a recent article in The LA Times, the decision to release healthy, outdoor cats is part of a department-wide attempt to divert intake, while still responding to urgent calls. American Pets Alive! shared a similar message in a blog on March 19th.

All of these shelters are taking initiative by coming up with new ideas, implementing AmPA! Protocols, and overall, making the best of a bad situation. The American Pets Alive! team is so impressed by what all these shelters are doing to flatten the curve and save animal lives through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Animal shelters are needing the support of American Pets Alive! now more than ever. To help us help animal shelters save more lives, please donate to americanpetsalive.org/donate.

American Pets Alive! (AmPA!) is the national education and outreach division of Austin Pets Alive!, AmPA! empowers individuals, organizations and communities to transform animal shelter systems and end unnecessary killing of shelter animals. Utilizing lifesaving best practices born in Austin, AmPA! hosts the Maddie’s® Lifesaving Academy with classes, apprenticeships and fellowships, an annual conference and provides ongoing crisis and operations support to shelters around the country. To learn more about AmPA!, visit americanpetsalive.org.

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