Yesterday, Governor Little issued a mandatory Statewide Stay-Home Order. This Order requires all residents in Idaho to remain at home for a minimum of 21 days except for essential activities.
Animal sheltering and veterinary services are considered an essential activity under the Governor’s Statewide Stay-Home Order. The Idaho Humane Society’s facilities provide essential animal health and public safety functions. COVID-19 carries the possibility of creating a significant animal welfare crisis across the country in shelters experiencing reduced capacity for care due to staffing shortages, the need for social distancing, and reduced outcome opportunities via adoption, foster or rescue.
Precedence was provided by similar orders in effect across the country and by the government-mandated responsibilities under FEMA to ensure that veterinary and animal shelter resources are available to attend to the well-being of household pets during disaster situations and other emergency events.
To mitigate the short and long-term effects of this pandemic, the Idaho Humane Society has already been implementing the following:
- Measures to eliminate all non-essential shelter intake. We are asking owners to forego turning over their pets to our shelter until this crisis is passed unless their circumstances are dire. We can provide food assistance for such owners if needed. We are also requesting that no healthy stray cats be turned over to our shelter at this time and that such cats are left in place. The vast majority of stray cats are in fact free-roaming cats with owners or feral cats that are adapted to life outdoors.
- Animal Care and Control continues to respond to emergency and high priority calls (law enforcement assistance, injured or sick stray animals, bite and dangerous dog complaints, etc.). We have discontinued low priority/non-emergency activity (non-aggressive stray animal pick-up, nuisance complaints, etc.).
We are continuing to provide live outcome options for the pets we shelter including appointment-based adoptions, return to field operations for cats, and we continue to place pets into foster homes. So far, our Treasure Valley community has responded selflessly to counter the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on companion animal welfare. Adoption and foster rates have exceeded the number of intakes to our facility and we have continued to save over 90 percent of the dogs and cats sheltered.
However, anticipated personnel and supply resource depletion dictate that essential services and lifesaving capacity be preserved by continuing to reduce the number of animals in custody as quickly as possible. This is being done by expediting the movement of animals to adoptive or foster homes.
Idaho Humane Society intends to stay the course: practicing social distancing to keep our staff healthy and severely limiting the number of people allowed into our Dorman Street and Bird Street facilities.
- All non-essential personnel, as well as volunteers, have been asked to work from home. While we greatly miss our volunteer corps, their presence increases the risks of staff exposure and many of our best volunteers are in the higher risk age group.
- We have separated staff at Dorman Street and Bird Street locations, as well as our field enforcement team, to lessen the risks of any potential exposure of one team impacting the other.
- Our buildings are now locked down at all times. Signs have been placed on the doors asking the public to call a phone number when they arrive. Our staff has protocols to allow owners to retrieve lost pets or obtain care for their sick or injured pets. All found pets are currently posted on our website. We ask the public to first consult the website before coming to our facility. If the pet is not on the website, we do not have the pet in our custody.
- Staff are practicing mandatory social distancing of staying 6 ft. from every person throughout the day along with observing frequent handwashing, proper sanitation of all work areas, and reductions in numbers of staff members working in areas together.
- We continue to work to ensure appropriate levels of inventory including cleaning and veterinary supplies, medications, and vaccines. We have and will continue to stock up on our food and supply donations to ensure our shelter population is provided for, as well as to provide for our meals on wheels pet food deliveries to homebound seniors and the disabled.
- We are limiting surgeries and medical procedures and we are conserving our remaining medical and surgical supplies, as well as sanitizing products, gowns, gloves and masks, to the greatest extent possible. Additionally, we are limited by the immediate reductions in veterinary staffing that we have implemented.
Our priority continues to be the safety and well-being of our team members and our community. Essential animal care must carry on, but some functions will be performed in new and different ways including teleconferencing and online communications. Communication is essential and each day brings new circumstances that we must navigate as best we can – in some cases with little or no precedent to guide us.
We are incredibly grateful and gratified (but not surprised) by the outpouring of support from our community – manifested in many ways from owners willing to forego relinquishment of owned pets at this time; the willingness to adopt or foster; and donations of money and supplies to our facilities. While we don’t know exactly what lies ahead in the days to come, we will continue to do our best to continue to fulfill our mission to protect our community’s companion animals.
Jeff Rosenthal, DVM
Chief Executive Officer