Central NC animal shelters adapting to help animals, pet owners during COVID-19 pandemic

Wake County News

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – COVID-19 has meant big changes for central North Carolina’s animal shelters. Some are closing their doors. Others are changing their procedures, but they’re still working, along with local rescue groups, to help pet-owners get through a tough time.

Fewer than two dozen dogs and a couple of cats are left at the Cumberland County Animal Shelter. Most cages sit empty. Animal Control Director Elaine Smith said the shelter has about 90 percent fewer animals than this time last year. The shelter worked to get most animals adopted or into foster homes before the outbreak hit.

Now the shelter isn’t taking in any animals unless it’s an emergency.

“When somebody calls us and says they can’t keep their pet, our first question is going to be, ‘Is there any way we can help you keep your pet?’” Smith said. “We have had people call up and say, ‘I can’t afford pet food,’ and we have said, ‘We will provide you pet food.’”

With many shelters closed or working with limited staff, rescues are taking in as many animals as they can. Triangle Beagle Rescue recently pulled several dogs out of shelters and is still coordinating adoptions while following social distancing rules.

“We’re doing all our home visits virtually. We’re encouraging meet and greets via FaceTime with the animals,” said Amy Douglas with TBR.

The group can rescue more dogs because people working from home have more time to foster them.

“Once we realized we were going be out of school indefinitely, we figured it was a good time to help them out,” said Katie Saveliff. She and Joe Holthaus are high school teachers in Durham. They’re fostering three puppies, who are making appearances in online lessons.

“It seems to be a good way of kind of introducing a little bit of cuteness and fun to what is most certainly an anxious, or at least unclear time for a lot of the kids,” Holthaus said.

It’s an uncertain time for everyone. People who work with animals said they’re trying to prepare for whatever comes.

“I think the hard part is that none of us really know what it’s going to look like in two weeks or three weeks,” Smith said.

Both Wake and Cumberland counties will take in animals if someone has to go to the hospital and has nowhere for a pet to go. However, both encourage pet owners to have a plan in case that happens.

Pet owners out of work because of the COVID-19 pandemic may be struggling to feed and care for their animals, but even as shelters have to close or limit their hours, they are working with rescue groups to help as many pets and people as possible.

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