This is part three in a multi-part article series The Community Voice is publishing, exploring some of the “silver linings” found in the dark cloud, that being the Covid-19 pandemic. Last week we explored how this pandemic has inspired people into giving back and how volunteerism has increased exponentially over the last several weeks.
As the Director of Volunteer Services for the Center for Volunteer and Nonprofit Leadership, Elaine Tokolahi, stated, “Coronavirus is not just a tragedy: it’s an opportunity to build a better world. This crisis has shed light on the importance of disaster preparedness, specifically within vulnerable and under-served populations. This pandemic has also shed a light on a pervasive social isolation issue that was pre-existing (think elderly populations, those with disabilities or illnesses, or the homeless). Now most of us our isolated. The good news: people are stepping up to help their neighbors and coming together to solve each other’s problems. It is inspiring to see!”
Continuing with this theme this week, we look at another vulnerable population - pets. For some people, the best way for them to give back is by helping animals. Pet adoptions and foster care has increased tremendously, including at our own Rohnert Park Animal Shelter.
“It's been amazing!” says Mickey Zeldes, Supervisor of Rohnert Park Animal Services. “We have done no solicitations and yet everyday people are reaching out with phone calls and emails offering foster help or interest in adopting. It's so unfortunate that we are closed right now for adoptions - we could have emptied our shelter three times over so far - and can't take on new volunteers while the city is closed. Fortunately, we have a fabulous strong corps of established volunteers who all stepped up and took home all our adoptable animals.”
Once the shelter-in-place order took affect the shelter only had a couple days to get everyone out. Miraculously, thirty animals found temporary, caring home environments in which they could be housed until the shelter can re-open. This has also been helpful to the shelter in that a few of the foster homes have already indicated that they would like to keep the animals. In addition, those that will go back to being up for adoption will now have experience in a home environment – helpful to a future potential adopter. The organization also hopes that, as a result of this crisis, they can grow their foster network and utilize more foster homes in the future. They have already received a lot of calls from people new to the shelter who have indicated their interest in doing so.
“We’re hearing a lot that people are home more now and it would be a good family project to have an animal,” says Zeldes. “They say “we have the time to take care of someone right now.’ People are also lonely and having a dog is company for someone single - we are getting calls from a lot of seniors saying that. Fostering a dog is also a good excuse to take more walks!”
Zeldes does caution, however, that even though pets are emotional support animals, one needs to remember that pet adoption is for life – not just during this crisis.
The shelter does not need more foster homes currently, but will in the future and does have other needs if people want to help.“We are encouraging people who are interested in fostering and can do it in the future to fill out a foster application available via a link on our website, rpanimalshelter.org,” says Zeldes. “Kitten season is coming and we will need foster homes then. Especially since all agencies have had to suspend their spay/neuter programs, right at the most critical time, we know that there will be more kittens than usual this year.”
The shelter is also asking for donations of pet food and litter to help people in need that the shelter helps through their Pet Food Pantry. They cannot accept towels, blankets or newspapers or other household items at this time. Cash donations are always helpful and appreciated. Donations can be made to the Animal Shelter League from their website, animalshelterleaguerp.org.
“Shelters are gearing up for a predicted influx of animals from families that have lost their jobs and possibly their housing,” says Zeldes. “This pandemic will have a long-term ripple effect on everything including pets. So think seriously about whether now is the right time to adopt a new animal before you do so. But the need will be great and anyone who can add another pet is encouraged to adopt and help save a life!”