It seems that while many humans are tired of quarantine, our four-legged companions seem to feel the opposite. In the majority of my online meetings, furry guests frequently join their masters on the screens. Pets have been getting more one-on-one time with their owners. More walks. More cuddles. More treats. And more attention. At least that’s the case for pets who have owners. Unfortunately, not all pets do. The pandemic has made it more difficult for a homeless pet to get a break.
COVID-19 has caused pet shelters in some hard-hit areas like the Navajo Nation to close indefinitely. With economic troubles on the rise and the pandemic going strong, things are likely to get worse for homeless pets. Stacey Frisk, executive director of Cache Humane, is working hard to see that doesn’t happen. Some of the displaced pets from the Nation came here to Cache Valley to wait for new homes at Cache Humane.
Cache Humane is an independent nonprofit whose goal is to target and eliminate causes of pet homelessness in Cache Valley. They focus on two important programs: sheltering and rehoming, and the community clinic.
Frisk said, “We are a no-kill shelter that takes in animals as owners surrender them.” She explained that Cache Humane cannot accept stray pets from the public. Stray animals must be reported to Animal Control, who give owners a five-day window to recover lost pets. After that, animals might be transferred to the shelter. “After transferring, we provide care, training, and veterinary treatment to prepare pets for rehoming.”
The rehoming process can be painstaking. Surrendered animals may need updated vaccines and a spay or neuter. Some pets need more training and socialization before they are ready for a forever home.
In the meantime, the animals need to be fed and boarded, which costs money. Treatments and training are costly, too. Volunteers and donations help meet those needs, but the lion’s share of the sheltering program is paid by the community clinic.
“The community clinic provides affordable spays and neuters – over 2,000 surgeries per year – and supplies vaccinations,” Frisk said. “The clinic has been most negatively impacted by COVID-19. It was closed by the governor’s executive order on April 25.”
In its efforts to conserve personal protective equipment or PPE, Utah requested that nonessential medical treatments throughout the state be suspended. Professionals from orthodontists to surgeons stopped seeing clients in their clinics. Veterinarians and animal care facilities gave up their PPE, too, and along with it, they lost a lot of business.
The community clinic reopened in June. With curbside drop-off, it has been possible to return to operations and vaccinations, but numbers are down and resources remain tight.
“Our community clinic is the primary source of revenue for the shelter,” said Frisk. “It is what allows us to provide daily care for the almost 100 animals we care for.”
The clinic’s closure cost Cache Humane an estimated $40,000 in revenue during the shutdown. A grant from the American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals helped to bridge about 90% of that gap, but the shelter is reaching out for community help in creative ways.
For example, the shelter is currently approaching businesses and bakers to contribute to a virtual “Big-Fix Brunch.” This online dessert auction will allow supporters to bid on locally made and donated delicacies and have them delivered to a home or business. Details will be available on Cache Humane’s website soon.
Cache Humane also hosts a social media fundraising day every week called Ten-dollar Tuesday. “It’s a way for anyone who has even $10 to spare to contribute and help our shelter animals,” said Frisk.
Frisk suggests there are lots of ways for animal lovers to be involved. Following Bear River Health Department’s guidelines, a limited number of youth can participate in Cache Humane’s annual summer camp. Youth help train and socialize the animals while simultaneously learning how to be good future pet owners, advocates, and professionals.
The Cache Humane website also has a wishlist of items which can be donated for day-to-day shelter needs. With the economic stress of the pandemic, the most needful thing at this time is unopened bags of dog and cat food for the pet food pantry.
“Our pet food pantry which provides for families in need has seen unprecedented demand,” Frisk said. With some humans out of work or on reduced hours, the need for pet food is only growing.
One bright spot during quarantine has been the number of people willing to foster shelter animals. “We have seen a huge outpouring of foster support. We currently have 45 animals in foster,” Frisk said. “We are always looking for more fosters.”
“People really do need companionship,” Frisk said. “If you’re lonely or feeling isolated, consider adopting or fostering a pet during quarantine.” Frisk explained that applications can be filled out online and a virtual training is available for those who want to temporarily host animals in their homes.
Adopting is a wonderful option. Sarah Wright took a chance on a sheltered terrier, Mia, recognizing that work and school schedules have been hectic and unpredictable. “We are an active family with farm animals and big dogs,” Wright said. “We never thought we would end up with a tiny lap dog in a pink rhinestone collar, but we wouldn’t change a thing. Mia has been a wonderful addition to our family and is helping our kids focus on love and responsibility during all of this chaos.”
A change of focus is something many of us have had during quarantine. Whether you are quarantined alone or with a family, caring for a four-legged friend might be a welcome break from the isolation. After all, humans could use a little more cuddle time and attention, too.
Kate E Anderson is a mother of five living in North Logan. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org