You may have heard about all the dogs and cats out there enjoying their owners being at home while people stay in to avoid spreading the coronavirus.
You may even have a friend or neighbor who’s volunteered to foster a pet while they’re locked down.
But what about the flip side — the care and attention pets aren't getting during this time, due to the closure or reduction of animal control, shelter, and veterinary services.
Animal Foundation, the largest animal shelter in the county, reduced its services in compliance with state orders. Pet adoption and surrender are done by appointment only.
“That’s when we began to see, and other rescues around the city began to see, many more strays and owner surrenders coming to our doors,” said Christy Stevens, executive director at Hearts Alive Village, an animal rescue operation in Las Vegas.
However, in addition to more strays and owner surrenders, Hearts Alive Village is also getting more people volunteering to foster those animals.
“We’re seeing many more strays because the Animal Foundation is unable to be that big of a resource, but people are fostering those strays, looking for those homes, hoping to reunite them with their owners,” Stevens said.
She advises people who have found a stray to take a picture and put it up on their social media accounts as soon as possible. Stevens said there are several lost and found pet sites on Facebook, which could help.
Stevens also said people should take a stray to a vet as soon as possible to see if they have a microchip. A lot of vets are offering curbside service or limiting their schedules to cut down on the number of people in the waiting room.
Rescue groups are also pivoting from just trying to take care of vulnerable animals that have no owner to pets that have an owner but the owner is struggling financially.
Hearts Alive Village received money to purchase and distribute pet food. It had a semi-truck full of pet food for pick up, and it has also delivered to people who couldn't get to the pick-up point.
Stevens said people are contacting them with concerns about paying for food and medical services for their pets.
“Folks are really worried about just getting food on the table let alone handling thousands of dollars of a vet bill for an emergency,” she said.
Another group trying to fill the gap is Vegas Cat Rescue. It is a trap-neuter-release group, which means it works to capture, spay or neuter and then release cats in an attempt to limit the number of feral or community cats.
Joe Hamrock is the founder. He said with the Animal Foundation, as well as other organizations that normally provide low-cost spay-and-neuter, limiting their services, his groups' efforts have been severely limited.
“There’s a high potential for many more unwanted homeless kittens being born in the next few months,” he said.
To make matters worse, it is kitten season, which means its the time in the year when cats usually mate and have litters. His group is working to trap as many feral cats as they can.
“It’s gotten a lot tougher but we’re still out there,” he said.
Vegas Cat Rescue is also providing food to people who are feeding feral cat colonies and medical care for pet owners who are struggling.
“Whatever we can help the community with, we do,” he said.
Stevens said animal organizations from around the valley are working together to help animals and their owners.
“That’s one of the things that this time has surely shown us: that we can work together as a community," she said, "We can work together as animal care professionals, and we’ve seen some really wonderful things happen.”
Joe Hamrock, Founder, Vegas Cat Rescue; Christy Stevens, Executive Director, Hearts Alive Village
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