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Pet rescues face COVID challenges

By Amelia Tarallo

Hometown Weekly Staff

Many events, activities, and businesses have been closed as a result of the COVID-19. While most people seem to be aware of the things that affect their day-to-day life, the absence of some other services may have gone completely unnoticed to them. Case in point: many animal shelters, rescues, and sanctuaries, including those featured weekly in Hometown Weekly, have been forced to alter their routines and cancel some of their crucial events in order to ensure the safety of their community, their animals, and their staff. 

The Medfield Animal Shelter, for example, has always been a volunteer-driven organization - one that supplements its full-time staff with a number of generous community helpers. With the dangers of COVID-19, though, the shelter has curbed the use of volunteer labor; currently, only their two full-time employees, plus a Sunday assistant, come in each week. As a result, the shelter has had to reduce the number of animals that it normally takes in. Many pets have been placed in foster homes, where they are safely waiting out the storm. Others are meeting their potential adopters in the lobby of the shelter, which provides more space to ensure social distancing, with a limited number of family members coming to each meeting to reduce the risk of the virus spread. “We are still scheduling adoption meetings, but they are few and far between, giving us plenty of time to disinfect between meetings,” says Marlene Simmons, the shelter manager.

Like many organizations, the Medfield Animal Shelter has had to cancel one of its important spring events. “The hardest part is that we have had to cancel our monthly low-cost spay/neuter clinic for the month of April,” explained Simmons. “This clinic is vital to reducing the number of unwanted litters. With 'kitten season' coming very soon, we are very worried about the number of litters that will be born outside, and potentially in dangerous situations.”

In nearby Hopkinton, the Baypath Humane Society takes in both local animals, as well as those from other areas of the country. While many of their cats and dogs have gone into foster homes, or have been adopted during closures, the shelter has nonetheless been disrupted as a result of the pandemic. While they have managed to change how they conduct adoptions, Baypath has had to cancel two of their main events for the year: the Fur Ball, which was slated to take place on March 28, and their annual Fore Paws Golf Tournament. “We had to cancel both for this year because there’s so much unknown right now,” explained Liz Jefferis. While this may not seem like a lot in terms of quantity, these fundraisers help bring the shelter a significant amount of its yearly income. To say the least, their cancellation will have a negative impact.

At the New England Coonhound Rescue (NECR), most operations have shifted in order to ensure the safety of both volunteers and the dogs. Transports have temporarily stopped with their normal quarantined spot closed, leaving many of the dogs with promised homes in New England in the South. The home-visit portion of adoption has stopped entirely for the duration of the crisis. “We have suspended home visits and we are not having them go into people’s homes. We’re using pictures instead,” explained Debbie Zorn. The normal meet-and-greets are being done with volunteers and potential adoptees wearing gloves, standing six feet apart. Disinfected leashes are utilized to ensure avoid spreading any germs. “The other thing that’s difficult for us is disappointing people - because you might have a transport scheduled, and then it something happens and then it gets pushed back for some reason. And then you have to tell the adopter: 'I’m sorry, your dogs not going to be here for three more weeks,'” said Zorn. “I feel bad, but our hands are tied.”

As the coronavirus spreads across the nation, it’s important to take a minute to check up on some of your furry neighbors to see how they’re doing. While the situation is changing every day, some shelters have changed their donation policies. While many are still accepting food donations, many shelters are asking people to hold off on donating toys and linens. For further information about these local shelters, pet adoption, and how to donate, visit www.baypathhumane.org, www.necoonhoundrescue.org, and www.medfieldshelter.com.

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