The Kitimat Community Humane Society (KCHS) say they have experienced an uptick in donations during quarantines associated with COVID-19 pandemic, however they are cautioning any would-be pet owners that such a commitment is a lifelong one.
KCHS manager Maryann Ouellet said COVID-19 has changed much of the day-to-day routine at the shelter, noting that the biggest change is a reduction in fundraising revenue.
“We fundraise basically every month because we cover a good portion of the north here so we get animals that come in from all over the place … so it’s hindered quite a bit of that,” she said. “We’re trying to find new ways to fundraise virtually but given the fact that, with so many people laid off, this isn’t the perfect time to be trying to hit people up [for money] either.”
Despite a decrease in traditional fundrasing, Ouellet said they’ve experienced an outpouring of support from the community, from personal donations to businesses which have donated large amounts of food to other shelters from down south which have sent up pallets of resources. “That tremendously helps,” she said.
To maintain social distancing the organization has fundamentally changed a number of ways they operate. The shelter is now listing all their animals online. After completing the screening process would-be owners meet their respective pets at the shelter while following enhanced sanitary measures. Dogs are brought outside, with KCHS selecting the ones they feel would be the best fit for the adoptee, while one person at a time can go inside to look at cats, but must wear a mask and gloves and sanitize in between holding different animals.
Currently the online listings do not contain a video component but Ouellet said this is something they are looking into figure out. “We’re trying to work something out with the board, even if we can get somebody to videotape it from a distance so that everybody is still social distancing and the animal will get some sort of highlight.”
In terms of actual adoptions, Ouellet said they have experienced an uptick during the pandemic. She underscored this with concern about the long-term success of adoptions once social distancing restrictions are eased and people get back to work.
“I’ve noticed that since COVID-19 and people [being] home more everybody wants to adopt or they want to foster, which is great in a lot of ways because they have that one on one [time],” she said. “We want people to realize the reality that once life turns back to some sort of normalcy, what’s going to happen to that pet that you had all the time in the world for … have you thought it through completely?”
She said for those who just want a little fix of fluff in their lives during the quarantine, the shelter is always looking for families to take on either mothers with kittens or just groups of kittens. In terms of donations, they could use wet dog or cat food and dry dog food.
As for how the animals are dealing with the impacts of less contact and whether it could affect their mental health, Ouellet said it was a real possibility, especially for cats at the shelter used to having social interaction from the many people who were previously coming in.
“We are still doing dog walking … so the dogs are getting lots of interaction, but the cats not so much, so it really impacts them tremendously,” she said, adding that they only have so many staff to do so much for all the animals in their care. “It’s only the staff and we’re there cleaning and feeding and what handling we can do [but] that’s really where we do miss out with the volunteers.”