The Covid19 social distancing restrictions currently in place (as of the time of writing, 7th April 2020) have had a dramatic effect on all of our lives, in more or less every way you can imagine. They’ve affected how we care for our pets too, from how we exercise dogs to what veterinary care we can access; and they have also had a direct, acute and serious impact on pet rehoming centres, and one that will generate a knock-on effect that in the weeks or months to come, and that may spell disaster for many such shelters, which are full to capacity, short of funds, and struggling to cope even in normal times.
Due to the social distancing regulations currently in place, most rehoming centres are unable to allow people to adopt pets from them at the moment, because it would be impossible to enable pet viewings and home assessment visits without close contact between staff and the general public.
However, pets in need have not simply stopped being surrendered and needing homes in respect of this; and additionally, the wider impact of the Covid19 crisis and social distancing regulations are all brewing to create a perfect storm for pet rehoming charities that will be acute, serious, and hugely problematic.
Even if the current social distancing regulations were lifted tomorrow to permit rehoming to go ahead once more (and it seems increasingly likely that the restrictions will continue for many weeks or even months to come rather than being eased) the situation for rehoming centres in a few weeks or months is apt to reflect a genuine crisis, with which few if any shelters will be able to cope.
Why? Well, in this article we’ll explain how the Covid19 social distancing restrictions spell out serious trouble for pet rehoming centres, both now and in the weeks and months to come; and we will share some pointers on what you can do to help. Read on to learn more.
First up, rehoming centres rarely have available spaces and tend to be at full capacity at all times, often with a waiting list. People who find or need to surrender pets often have to do a lot of phoning around, and are not always successful.
However, there is at least usually a turnover of pets being rehomed and making room for new ones, which is not happening at present.
The current social distancing restrictions mean that rehoming cannot currently take place, as shelter visits and home assessments require personal interaction, and so not only are shelters full with new pets always needing space, but the pipeline has currently stopped in terms of pets going back out into new homes.
Because shelter staff and volunteers need to abide by social distancing regulations to keep each other safe, things take longer to do than normal, in many cases, as there is limit to how many people can be in a certain work area, or performing the same task. This places pressure on the staff in turn, at what is already a busy time.
Shelter staff and volunteers will need to self-isolate at points, and of course, many will become sick for a period of time as coronavirus continues to spread. This means that many shelters will struggle to cover all of their needs due to a lack of staff, and most are not inviting new volunteers at present regardless, due again to social distancing measures.
Coronavirus does resolve with recovery for most victims, but it also causes fatalities; and some of those people who succumb to their illness will leave pets behind, many of which will have no one else to care for them and which may require shelter spaces.
On top of this, even people who are healthy might be faced with no choice but to surrender or rehome pets if the knock-on financial impact of the coronavirus crisis means they are no longer able to afford to care for their pets, further increasing pressure.
Vets are currently only able to offer emergency and essential treatments for pets, which means the provision of spay and neuter surgery has been suspended. This will result in more litters born, all of which will need homes; and the longer the rules in place continue in their current form, the more acute this will become.
Even when shelters are physically and legally able to begin rehoming once more, there will be a backlog of home checks to perform and a bottleneck of people seeking to adopt, which will cause delays in the process.
Additionally, some pets that might not be ready for rehoming due to needing training or that have behavioural problems might not have had this intensive rehabilitation performed due to a lack of resources during restrictions, and so might hold their shelter places longer than they otherwise would.
This is due to many people having a lack of funds to care for a pet after a protracted period of furlough, unemployment, or loss of business, as well as the potential that some would-be pet adopters might have taken in the pets of friends or relatives who succumbed to coronavirus in the interim.
These are just a few of the many complex and varied factors facing pet rehoming charities and shelters at present, and in the months to come.
Donate money if possible; shelters are always short of funds, and by donating money you can help them to fund the areas they most need help with, and help to continue to provide care.
Check with individual shelters too, to find out what else they need that you can assist with or supply. Many, if not most rehoming shelters are not accepting new volunteers at present in order to maintain social distancing. However, if and when staffing levels fall and the need becomes acute, many will have no choice but to seek new volunteers, foster carers, dog walkers, and other forms of support; and they may also need help in other ways too, such as asking people to collect food donations and assist in other matters.
What any charity or shelter needs and can benefit from might be quite variable, and so it is far better to ask than to assume and perhaps inadvertently put your energies into something that won’t offer huge benefit despite your best intentions.