Summer 2020: What Lies Ahead for Animal Welfare Organizations?

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Warm days, basking in the sunshine, and the beauty of summer are just around the corner. These normal elements of summer won’t change, but the COVID-19 situation has discombobulated our view of what a normal summer will look like. The term, “uncertain,” seems to be the popular term to describe how we all feel about the upcoming months. The same goes for our friends in animal welfare and the amazing organizations that have come together and stood strong against adversity for the better part of the year. What lies ahead for these organizations? What can they expect? What can they do? We may not have the exact answers as things are changing every day, but here is our take on what animal welfare organizations may face in the months to come:

Surge in Animal Returns

Despite a lot of negatives, animal shelters in particular have seen an overwhelmingly positive outcome of increased adoptions, foster homes, and empty kennels as COVID-19 stay-at-home orders prompted numerous people to adopt and take more animals into their homes. Many shelters and rescues have never experienced such an oddly amazing phenomenon. However, as unemployment has risen far beyond record numbers and fears of livelihoods being lost hovers over those most affected in this way, this raises concerns as to what pet owners in this situation may have to do with their beloved pets should they no longer be able to keep them.

Maddie’s Fund recently shared a presentation by Greg Lucas, founder of ShelterLuv, in which Lucas touches on the possibility of a massive surge in animal returns due to the economic and unemployment outcomes that animal owners may be faced with in the wake of the COVID-19 impact. Of course, we hope that we will not see such a surge in animal returns in the next few months, or at least not very many. However, preparation is vital.

Lucas pointed out early on in his presentation that a lot of shelters have seen an overwhelming influx of foster and adoption applications come through, which can make it extremely difficult for them to maintain and even acknowledge the applications altogether. However, he emphasized the importance of not neglecting these applications as they present the opportunity to expand foster and adopter networks. People in communities everywhere have stepped up and shown their willingness to help animals in need, and they should be acknowledged for their efforts. Building relationships with both current and potential foster caregivers is going to be extremely important and beneficial for shelter organizations in order to help expand their foster networks so that if a surge in animal returns does come, they will have a network ready, willing, and able to take in more animals. 

Disrupted Supply Chains

Most of the world’s leading industries have seen some shape or form of disrupted supply chains in their mix, including animal welfare organizations. Organizations ranging from small animal shelters and rescues, all the way up to larger animal sanctuaries (farm/equine, exotics, etc.), have seen an impact on their ability to obtain much needed supplies, particularly drug and medical supplies. It is difficult to tell exactly when these supply chains will fully recoup, but we hope that as the world begins to open back up the flow of supplies and supply manufacturing will slowly but surely regain strength.

Social Distancing Events

Adoption and fundraising events play a major part in helping animal welfare organizations of all shapes and sizes continue to operate and carry out their missions. Most of these events, which typically take place at a physical location where groups of people are encouraged to join, were cancelled as a result of the Coronavirus situation. Some organizations adapted to the situation by going virtual with their events or finding new ways to obtain donations in the virtual world (we blogged about jumping in on virtual meetings as a unique way to get donations). However, as states and regions across the U.S. begin lifting stay-at-home restrictions and phase into reopening their communities, can in-person events start happening again? Perhaps they can, but not to the extent they normally would be.

Social distancing guidelines have completely altered how people meet and congregate in groups, and it seems that these practices will be sticking around for a while. Therefore, if fundraising and adopting events wish to make a comeback safely, then they will need to be modified to better follow social distancing guidelines. This could include limiting the number of staff and volunteers that run the event, where the event is held, how many people attend the event, and more.

If your organization is deciding on whether it is appropriate to bring back these kinds of in-person events, here are some things to consider:

  • What is the Coronavirus climate like in your area (high risk, low risk, heavily impacted, low impacted, etc.)?
  • Where is your organization at in your reopening plan? You can check out our previous blog for recommendations on how to phase back into your operations.
  • Where would the event be held? Larger, more open spaces are ideal in that they can allow you to better adhere to social distancing guidelines.
  • For larger sanctuaries that have capacity for large groups of visitors, consider doing “limited” events where limited number of tickets would be sold in a day to minimize the number of congregating people.
  • Another option for larger sanctuaries that allow visitors is to schedule time slots throughout each day where a predetermined number of individuals can visit at a particular time.
  • The event must require staff, volunteers, and visitors to wear a mask and have proper PPE while attending the event in order to minimize the risk of exposure.

Hosting in-person events or planning to reopen a sanctuary to visitors at this time depends solely on good and cautious analysis of the current situation in your area. Keep in mind all aspects of your organization (property, people, and animals) that may be impacted by any decision for these events.

Slow Flow of Donations

As mentioned earlier, the impact of the Coronavirus on unemployment and the economy in general has left many facing tough financial circumstances. This could prevent many from making regular contributions to their favorite animal welfare organizations and non-profits alike.

This doesn’t mean that donations will disappear, but it may take quite some time for the flow and frequency of donations to come back up to speed. Luckily, major animal welfare organizations like Best Friends, HSUS, ASPCA, Maddie’s Fund, and more have stepped up in big ways to offer financial assistance either through grants or providing financial management resources. If your organization is in need of such grants or resources, here are some options still available to you:

It is important to remember that although things are changing every day and much is still uncertain, we are bouncing back. The upcoming summer months may be the time where you begin to pick back up and take a hold of what lies ahead. Preparedness is one of the most valuable assets any organization can have right now. Although your organization may not have been prepared for what has occurred, you have reached the point now where you can extensively prepare for what may come next. Hope, optimism, and sunshiny days are right around the corner.