Coping with Covid-19
Animal adoptions soar in quarantine
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, animal adoption rates have skyrocketed at local animal shelters that have altered their work methods significantly. Deemed an essential service by the Quebec Government in April, animal shelters have started operating mostly online, with limited staff members inside their facilities. At the Outaouais SPCA, the shelter suspended all services on March 23, except for its adoption service, and limited it to Monday to Friday a couple of weeks later.
Only offering its adoption service via appointments requested through Facebook has helped keep the space a lot less crowded, according to assistant director Maxime Daigle. Dogs and cats have been getting adopted within minutes of posting about them on social media. “It’s just crazy,” Daigle said. “We have so much demand.” Since around mid-March, for safety reasons, the Outaouais SPCA has reduced its staff numbers significantly, as well as its animal intake, anticipating adoption demands to drop.
But, instead, the exact opposite occurred.
With fewer animals coming into the shelter, on top of a lower number of staff members, the high demand for adoption hasn’t been an easy situation for employees to manage. From the spring to the fall, normally the busiest period of the year, the shelter usually houses between 75 and 150 animals, typically about 60 per cent cats, 30 per cent dogs and 10 per cent birds, rodents and reptiles. Over the last month or so, the shelter has had about five to eight animals in total – counting those that are not yet eligible for adoption. The shelter of 65 employees would normally see around 30 people working in a day. But since the start of the pandemic, it has reduced its staff to between five and 10 people working in the facility, with administrative staff working from home.
The shelter’s veterinarian has also gone from working five days per week to three because there haven’t been enough animals to take care of. Since veterinarians can only treat emergencies for the time being, the facility has stopped sterilizing animals and other types of care they usually provided, causing another reason to take in fewer animals, Daigle said.
Having let go numerous employees because of the crisis, Daigle said that not being able to adopt out as many animals as before has certainly hurt the shelter financially. Usually, the shelter adopts out around 50 pets per week and those numbers have dropped to around three. Since March 23, the shelter has only been taking in animals in emergency situations or in cases where they have serious behavioural issues, including injured, sick and lost animals.
According to manager Jennifer Forgie, the shelter adopted out around 10 animals per week before the pandemic. But over the last month or so, those numbers have dwindled to about three per week. While remaining open as an essential service, the shelter has largely shifted its services online and made its adoption process by appointment only.
Providing cats and dogs only, the shelter posts photos of the animals on its website - http://www.aylmer-hull-spca.qc.ca/adoptions_e.html - along with profiles of them. Adoption appointments can be requested by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (819) 770-7722.
Forgie explained that the shelter generally receives its cats and dogs from different rescue shelters in the state of Kentucky, North Bay, Ontario and Iqaluit, Quebec.
Because of temporary border closures, exchanges with the shelter in Kentucky have been put on hold, making the SPCA of Western Quebec largely rely on North Bay for animals. Not funded by the government and unable to rely entirely on donations, the lack of animals coming in for adoption has definitely hurt the shelter financially. Typically, the shelter boasts around 30 adoptable animals with a relatively even split of dogs and cats. Recently, the number has been closer to around five and sometimes zero.
Without access to veterinarians except in emergency situations, many of the shelter’s animals have missed out of spaying and neutering appointments and even surgeries. Forgie noted that one dog had a broken hip and hadn’t been seen by a specialist. With only four full-time employees, Forgie admitted that the situation has been a struggle so far. Funds can be donated to the SPCA of Western Quebec via their website.
Considering the great demand for pets since the beginning of the crisis and the concern of them not being properly taken care of, Daigle stressed the importance of adopting a pet as a lifelong companion and not a temporary distraction before life goes back to normal. Daigle explained that the Outaouais SPCA conducts thorough adoption consultations to explain what kind of commitment owning a pet demands, to ensure that pets move into healthy and happy homes.