When the COVID-19 pandemic first began in March, the shelter, like all businesses in the county shut down. Our volunteers, who we already knew were wonderful, really stepped up and within two days took all our adoptable animals home to foster so they could get the attention they needed and not have to just sit in a kennel or cage. For the animals, that was huge! But we worried about our community and the people and animals we serve.
Typically spring is a busy time at the shelter. Kitten season is beginning and calls start coming in about pregnant cats or unexpected kittens popping up. Days get longer so kids and dogs are outside more – hence more lost pets. Sadly, we also tend to get in more owner surrenders as pets sometimes conflict with the summer travel plans. With the shelter closed, except for
emergencies, what would happen to all those animals?
Well, our residents really stepped up. People who found strays did what they could to return the animal home with just some support (scanning for a microchip, taking lost reports) and suggestions from us. Posting pictures on Craigslist, Facebook (yours and ours), Josie’s Lost Pets Facebook page and Nextdoor.com are just a few ways that individuals took it on themselves to help reunite families with their lost pets. Awesome! Why bring it to the shelter if you can do this from home? And usually the animal belongs to a neighbor anyway so it’s easier for everyone if the animal is close to home - not to mention the favor you are doing by saving the owner the city fees required to redeem a pet from the shelter.
We’re also hearing about kind people who have taken in orphan kittens or moms and babies and are doing what they can to nurse them along until the shelter can reopen. Double wow!!! You don’t want to pull kittens from the mom too young. Their best chance of survival is for the kittens to remain with the mom until they are at least 5 weeks old then pull them to make sure they are tame and socialized with people. If you don’t know how to age kittens, we have posted a chart on our Facebook page, but basically if they are walking and playing (and look coordinated doing so) then they are old enough to pull. By keeping the kittens out of the shelter until they are old enough to spay/neuter and put up for adoption you reduce the strain on our budget and our limited staff. We are happy to help you get the kittens (and mom!) fixed, vaccinated and microchipped, and take the hassle out of finding the right home for them, especially if you did the hard work of raising them. This makes for a great partnership with our community.
In fact, you did such a good job that we only took in 35 percent compared to what we received last year during March and April! This is the beginning of Rohnert Park becoming a model of a humane society where everyone does their part to help out the animals. Imagine if all the dogs and cats (and rabbits) in Rohnert Park and Cotati were microchipped and currently registered – we offer chips for free to our residents - the shelter could function as just a temporary lost and found and not have to house animals long-term. What a concept! What if everyone worked with trainers or behaviorists to resolve behavior issues before surrendering their pets? Amazing idea!
The silver lining to this COVID virus is that it got our community going on the path of being proactive and involved in helping animals. As we slowly start to reopen let’s work on keeping this momentum going. Go to our website for the link to apply to be a foster parent or shelter volunteers. Together we can save them all!!
Mickey Zeldes is the supervisor at the Rohnert Park Animal Shelter. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.