With the effects of the coronavirus trickling into every crevice of modern-day sustainability, the Pasadena Humane Society & SPCA is gearing up to help those it knows are most impacted in times of crisis: unemployed people and their pets.
Even those people who had been doing relatively well economically are expected to struggle financially because of the closures that were enacted to stem the spread of COVID-19, especially if they are part of the retail, restaurant, hotel or service industries. In times of hardship, people often need to abandon their rented homes and apartments with their beloved animals.
“As people become ill or unemployed, they are going to have harder times ahead in keeping their pets,” said Dia DuVernet, president and CEO of the Pasadena Humane Society. “We’ve seen this before, unfortunately. When people lose their jobs, they can’t afford food for their pet, and if they have to move, they often can’t take their animals with them.”
The nonprofit organization is taking action to beef up a relief fund for its Helping Paws program, which includes a pet food bank offering free food and supplies to animal owners in need, as well as emergency housing for owners in transition. Typically, low-cost spaying and neutering, vaccinations and microchipping are also available through its wellness clinic, although it has had to suspend those services to the public’s animals to keep its staff safe and to follow public health guidelines amid the virus outbreak.
Though the local Humane Society has also had to close its regular service hours to the public out of caution, it continues to operate via email and telephone and can arrange for in-person pickup at its food bank for those in need.
“We’ve been reassessing and readjusting our operations every day; we’re trying to stay ahead of the curve and be prepared for what’s coming. … We know that when the weather warms up it’s inevitable that more animals are born, especially kittens,” DuVernet said. “We’re continuing to help all the people we can, and we could really use the help of the community to support those efforts.”
While the agency has closed its essential services to the public, its staff continues to operate, taking care of the few animals currently housed at the shelter, as well as providing emergency animal control to nearby cities and emergency medical services.
Dr. Matthew Toscano, Pasadena Humane Society chief veterinarian, was holding down the fort at the clinic this past week. He wanted to clarify that anyone who is frightened by rumors that COVID-19 can be spread among animals or from an animal to a human can rest easy.
“There is no evidence to suggest that your pet is in danger of catching the virus or giving you the virus,” Toscano said, noting that coronavirus is a large group with different strains common among various animal groups, including canine, feline and bovine coronavirus. “Those are completely unrelated to the COVID-19 we are seeing now.”
Toscano said he and his limited staff are working hard to keep the animals they can attend to healthy and trying to quickly help roaming dogs and cats, or those sick and injured, throughout the nonprofit’s service areas.
“We just can’t be fully operational right now, and that’s hard for people to understand it’s hard for us, too, but this is happening across the country right now. … I would just ask that people try to be understanding of the shelters’ needs to protect our own staff,” he said, adding that in the meantime, he hopes everyone takes good care of their animals.
“Supporting community pet ownership is of utmost importance to us, and being a resource for the community and helping others to commit to that type of mission-driven work will continue to be at the forefront of our efforts. This [pandemic] might set us back a little bit, but I’m hoping we can rebound quickly.”
Meanwhile, the Humane Society’s board of directors remains supportive and hopes to help the nonprofit during this trying time, said Vice Chairman Pete Siberell, who’s been on the board for six years and has helped the nonprofit shape its community-oriented approach.
“They are being tremendously proactive in their measures and trying to get everything in place they will need as people start hitting unemployment. [The amount of need] could start to change big time,” Siberell said. “I think Dia has been doing a tremendous job in this, about getting the word out: We need to get ready for the onslaught that is coming in the spring.”
Although most shelter animals have currently been placed with foster homes and families, the need for permanent homes still remains, and the shelter is working to line up new foster families for the new influx of animals expected in the coming weeks.
“Right now, and in times of crisis, pets can be a great way to reduce stress and be wonderful companions,” DuVernet emphasized. “Right now animals need us, but we need them, too.”
For those interested in fostering, becoming an adoptive family, donating to the Humane Society or giving to an animal or an animal owner in need, visit the Pasadena Humane Society website at pasadenahumane.org.