Humans aren’t the only ones who have suffered during the pandemic. Four-footed friends and the groups that care for them have faced myriad challenges since COVID-19 changed daily life. Animal rescue organizations, like other nonprofits, often run on tight budgets. This year has been particularly tough for many such organizations.
The Lion’s Den Cat Rescue of Clarksville was created to help the community’s homeless cat population. The group, which provides a safe, cage-free environment for homeless cats while they await adoption, lost sources of funding in 2020 as grant programs were cut or canceled due to COVID-19. At the same time, financial donations from organizations and businesses decreased.
Getting animals the medical care they need has proven difficult as veterinarians and clinics were backed up for months at a time. According to Lion’s Den President Heather Hinkle, shipments of medications, vaccines and supplies have taken two to three times longer to arrive.
Working with volunteers has been more complicated, too.
“Arranging transport is almost impossible, as we pull [cats] from Texas high-kill shelters,” Hinkle said. “Volunteer sign ups have dropped off as well.”
Canine Humane Network, a dog rescue in Highland, also has felt the effects of COVID with social distancing, masking and heightened sanitization practices becoming part of everyday procedures.
“Social distancing can be a real challenge, especially in the hands-on world of dog rescue,” said Mona Hicks, executive director of Canine Humane Network. “During the spring of this year, we had to shut the shelter down and could not keep dogs on the premises. We may be faced with the same situation this winter with COVID gearing up again.”
The dog rescue, founded in 2016 by Hicks, saves and re-homes over 900 dogs per year, placing them with permanent families in Howard County and surrounding areas. It also offers training and animal behavior management classes.
“Over the summer, we had to move our training classes outside where everybody could spread out,” Hicks said. “That actually turned out to be a very popular adjustment.”
On a positive note, CHN has seen higher than normal interest from adopters and foster families during the pandemic.
“For some reason, people seem more inclined to adopt and to foster,” Hicks said. “We don’t fully understand it, but we are thankful for every one of them.”
Both organizations welcome monetary and supply donations, but without volunteers, neither organization could accomplish their mission.
“People volunteering is what we really need,” Hinkle said. “It takes a lot of time to care for a high volume of cats properly. There are other aspects of the rescue outside of just cleaning litter boxes and feeding that would be incredibly helpful, like taking cute pictures and creating profiles for PetFinder.com.”
Volunteers also can help by taking cats to the vet for spay/neuter appointments or when they are sick. Clerical work such as data entry, checking in on foster families and monitoring supply requests are other important roles.
“We need volunteers of every kind: dog walkers, shelter cleaners, fundraising specialists, grant proposal writers, photographers, medical team support, trainers, adoption counselors, foster liaisons, the list goes on and on,” Hicks said. “If you can do something meaningful, even if it’s cleaning dog kennels, there’s a place for you here.”
Kittens and puppies may seem like a memorable gift for the holidays, but is giving a pet as a present a good idea?
“The holidays can be a wonderful time to introduce a new dog into your family, but for the right reasons,” Hicks said. “The idea of a dog as a gift must be accompanied by the idea that this gift is a precious addition to your family, not just for the holiday, but for its lifetime. Dogs need attention, love, exercise, a good diet, training and most of all, an acknowledged place in the family, even if it’s a family of one. If you’re thinking of adopting a dog for the holiday, make sure you’re in it for the long run.”