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As COVID wanes, animal shelters wait

By Amelia Tarallo
Hometown Weekly Staff

COVID-19 has changed how we handle most aspects of life. We wear masks when we leave the house. We use a colossal amount of hand sanitizer. Some even work from home. The changes have even inspired many people to adopt a furry friend to keep them company in their newly-found free time.

For local animal rescues, the pandemic has meant an increase in adoptions, the cancellation of events, and the change of key processes. 

One of the few benefits of this pandemic has been the overwhelming increase in pet adoptions. Northeast Coonhound Rescue (NECR) has seen an uptick in adoptions for their Southern-born hounds. Rather than waiting for adopters, the rescue now has waitlists for their beagle and coonhound charges. Due to COVID-19, many of the facilities used for the dogs to fulfill their quarantine requirements remained closed, making the adoption process much slower. Now that quarantine facilities have been reopened, the dogs are back to their regular schedule of being driven from the South and meeting their new families.

NECR is known for hosting seasonal walks that bring hound owners together and allow those curious to get to know beagles and coonhounds a bit more. While most other events were canceled, NECR has been able to keep these walks going, with the addition of social distancing measures. “These have been very popular and we've had good attendance, with families and dog owners seeking opportunities to get outside to socialize.  We'll continue our trail walks throughout the spring, summer, and fall, and already have a few scheduled,” says Ann Lambertus, president of NECR. The latest scheduled trail walk will take place on Saturday, April 24, in Hingham.

At the start of the pandemic, the Medfield Animal Shelter saw its staff and volunteers reduced as a safety measure. Now, those volunteers are back. "We still hold adoption meetings by appointment only, though our flexibility has increased since most of our adoption counselors have returned to helping at the shelter. We are so happy about that!" says Marlene Simmons, the shelter manager. The return of volunteers in Medfield has allowed for an increase in the number of animals taking refuge there. "We truly can't do this job without their help and support," says Simmons. In addition to having volunteers back, the shelter is now back to hosting their low-cost spay and neuter clinic for cats, and will be offering a rabies clinic on April 24.

A few towns away, the Baypath Humane Society has had its own ups and downs during the pandemic. Switching up their usual application process to a match-making system to finding the best pairs of adopters and animals has been a successful transition. In the last year, they have found new homes for 867 animals. “We’re slightly up [from last year], which is amazing because we have less volunteers, and tougher conditions,” says Executive Director Liz Jefferies. Included in the difficulties was the loss of outreach opportunities for the rescue. The cancelations of the annual Fur Ball and Fore Paws Golf Tournament were both unexpected hits for the rescue. Jefferies is hoping to see the Paws and Claws 5K back in person this year - as it was held in a virtual format in 2020. An online auction replaced this year’s Fur Ball and let patrons bid on items from the comfort of their own houses. As the pandemic hopefully comes to an end, Jefferies looks forward to having people visiting the rescue again. “We like to think of ourselves as a community resource where people can stop in, see the place, and talk to us,” says Jefferies. “Just a general human connection and talking to people to see how we can help them.”

As more people become vaccinated and COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, the one change all these shelters wish to see is the continued interest in animal adoption. Each pet shelter aims to find a great "forever home" for every animal that comes into its care. As the era of COVID-19 begins to wither and volunteers return, doing so will hopefully become quite a bit easier.

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