The Upper Valley Humane Society is dedicated to pets and people in our community and has maintained its status as an essential service with a team actively working during the Pandemic.
Despite lost revenue from adoptions, spay/neuter clinics, and a nationwide drop in donations, UVHS is continuing to serve critical functions for the Upper Valley, providing exemplary veterinary care for shelter animals, and assisting people and animals in crisis.
UVHS responded rapidly to Covid-19 by reducing shelter animal population through foster care, canceling events, pausing adoptions to protect staff, and delivering thousands of pounds of free pet food to social-service agencies across the region.
In early April, as people all across the United States were searching high and low for toilet paper, an UVHS foster family was caring for a mama cat and her brand new kittens named Angel Soft, Charmin, Cottonelle, Mr. Whipple, and Scott.
Mom and babies are doing well, thanks to a foster home experienced with newborn kittens. In fact, foster care is the main headline for the UVHS these days.
As cases of Covid spread, one of the key priorities for animal shelters nationwide was to reduce shelter population. There are a number of reasons for this. One is simply a function of human resources. Most animal shelters, like UVHS, run on a lean staff. There is great concern that if a virus spreads through staff, that there would not be enough people to care for the animals. Even cold and flu season leaves shelters short-handed.
The other reason was to ensure that there would be room for the pets of people hospitalized and those who would lose their lives to the virus.
The Upper Valley is an action-oriented community, and, within a few days, more than 30 shelter animals were welcomed into foster homes across the Upper Valley, including Quechee.
Families that might not normally be able to foster an animal due to work or school schedules were suddenly and unexpectedly home and eager to foster. The animals benefit so much from being in foster care. They are learning skills for living in a home, lounging on couches, playing with toys, socializing with people and pets, and generally having a fabulous time!
For example, Brutus, a short-legged, blue Pitbull has been running, jumping and playing with his active foster family. Sophie, a sweet white dog, loves to cuddle and has been sleeping curled up with her head tucked under the chin of her foster parent. One of our dogs in foster care does morning exercises with her family.
There are cats in foster care, too. Although a bit more independent than their canine counterparts, the cats are having a good time playing with red tissue paper and brown cardboard boxes and sprawling on sunny windowsills. There are even several rabbits in foster care, including one who helps with schoolwork!
The staff at UVHS is hard at work, even though many animals are in foster care. UVHS’s shelter veterinarian consults with a number of foster families nearly daily and, of course, UVHS still has a few animals at the shelter who require daily care and attention from the team. One animal still at the shelter is a cat who is on a state-mandated four-month rabies quarantine. There are also new, incoming stray animals.
Adoptions of shelter animals and non-emergency surrenders of animals have been on hold since March. Both of these processes will re-open in the coming weeks.
Shelter staff and foster families are eager to find permanent homes for the animals in their care. While living with a foster family can be wonderful, everyone’s primary goal is a permanent, loving home for every animal. With this goal in sight, UVHS has developed protocols for “Virtual Adoptions.”
Virtual adoptions preserve physical distance while maintaining the integrity of UVHS’ warm and collaborative adoption process. There are virtual “meet and greets”, a review of adoption paperwork via videoconference, and ultimately, a brief finalization and pick-up of the animal at the shelter.
UVHS expects to have its virtual adoption program up and running the first full week of May. Shortly thereafter, the shelter will resume intake of some animals on a non-emergency basis. During these first few weeks of the Pandemic, it reduced intake, accepting only animals in emergency circumstances.
By mid- to late-May, UVHS will again be accepting animals needing new homes for non-emergency reasons.
To achieve these goals, the Shelter’s Covid-response team has to – once, if not twice, per week – review new research and guidelines from the CDC as well as guidance from veterinary organizations. In accordance with this guidance, UVHS has developed protocols for the safest handling of Covid-exposed or potentially exposed animals. With these universal precautions in place, UVHS plans to accept new animals by mid- to late-May.
Once again, thanks to the many foster families caring for shelter animals, UVHS staff is able to perform some needed maintenance in animal areas of the shelter. These efforts are nearly impossible when the shelter is full.
The organization is currently painting and resurfacing dog kennels and cat condos. Not only will this refresh and brighten the shelter, it will also make the animal housing areas easier to clean and disinfect. That is more important now than ever.
Looking to the future, UVHS executive director Nikki Grimes said she is “cautiously optimistic” that the shelter will withstand the financial and other pressures of the Pandemic.
Each year the UVHS finds new homes for over 500 pets, provides spay/neuter services for 350 families, and offers almost 30,000 pounds of pet food to people in need.
“But,” said Grimes, “we rely almost entirely on donations, so it will take everyone in the Upper Valley working together – every donation matters. We need anyone who can, to continuing giving. $5, $25, $50, $250. Every gift matters. To be honest, we also need a few supporters to make five- six- or even seven-figure gifts. If ever there was a time, it’s now.”
If you are looking for a new furry family member, adoptions will open soon. To learn more about the animals, or to support UVHS, visit www.UVHS.org.