Social distancing is no problem at Shadow’s Fund, where a few employees and volunteers work on a 100-acre Lompoc sanctuary for dogs.
But the COVID-19 pandemic has meant both a 10 to 15% decrease in donations and a surge in interest in adoptions, Co-Founder and Director Jill Anderson-Rackley told the News-Press.
“The interest has skyrocketed. We’re getting three to five inquiries a day as opposed to three to five inquiries a month,” Ms. Anderson-Rackley said.
“For the most part, we’re steering them to our local shelters,” she said, noting most of Shadow’s Fund’s dogs are lifelong sanctuary residents.
Representatives of Santa Barbara County shelters told the News-Press that interest in adopting and fostering pets has grown a lot during the pandemic.
At the same time, there’s a financial impact.
Shelters and their nonprofit partners report a decline in donations, and they’re concerned about the fact they can’t hold their usual fundraisers.
During the pandemic, shelters are closed to walks-in, but are handling applications for adoptions through their websites and phone conversations.
They’ve arranged various ways to ensure social distancing for adopters. They include meets-and-greets with dogs in yards, video chats to see pets and leaving cats in carriers for adopters to pick up while the staff stays 6 feet or more away.
Employees and volunteers are also practicing social distancing from each other, and they’re wearing masks. Some people are working at home.
“It’s a complete culture shift from how we used to handle adoptions,” said Angela Yates, executive director of Animal Shelter Assistance Program, which focuses on cats.
But she noted the successful use of video chats between potential adopters and foster homes, with people watching cats on their phones.
Ms. Yates said one adopter told ASAP, “The whole time we were FaceTiming, he was rubbing all over the foster (care provider), purring and trying to rub his little cheeks against the phone. How can I not fall in love? How can I adopt?”
She said adoptions were being processed for more than 50 cats. She also noted 280 families and individuals applied to be emergency foster care providers when ASAP put out the call after Gov. Gavin Newsom’s shelter-in-place order.
“It was just an extraordinary response from the community,” Ms. Yates said.
Kitty corner to ASAP in Goleta is Santa Barbara County Animal Services, which has seen great numbers of adoptions and fostering at its shelters in Goleta, Santa Maria and Lompoc.
From March 16 to April 16, 127 pets were adopted, 113 were placed in foster homes and 92 were reunited with their owners, Operations Manager Esteban Rodriguez said.
Rabbits at the shelter continue to get care from Bunnies Urgently Needing Shelter, which arranges for adoptions for people willing to work within the COVID-19 limitations.
Next door in Goleta, the Santa Barbara Humane Society also has seen high numbers. The nonprofit merged in February with the Santa Maria Valley Humane Society.
“Between the north and south campus (in Santa Maria and Goleta), we had just over 100 animals,” Executive Kerri Burns said. “In just 2½ weeks, we’ve done 70 adoptions.”
In Lompoc, Volunteers for Inter-Valley Animals has seen its number of adoptions double during the pandemic, board member Barb Hayes said. She explained people feel a need for the mental health boost provided by pets. “I think pet companionship would alleviate boredom and depression and give you a sense of purpose.
“Pets always brighten your day,” Mrs. Hayes said.
She said VIVA has about 100 cats in its shelter but, as usual, keeps all of its dogs in foster care.
The surge of interest in animals is clear. What’s uncertain is finances.
Both Shadow’s Fund in Lompoc and Santa Ynez Valley Humane Society in Partnership with DAWG in Buellton have applied for loans through the Payroll Protection Program.
“We’re hoping to get that. It will help us to keep our staff employed during this time,” President Bob Jennings said, adding that employees’ hours were reduced. He praised them for their positive attitude during the pandemic.
Mr. Jennings added that the Buellton-based humane society has applied for four grants related to COVID-19 impact.
Like other shelters in the county, the Buellton shelter can’t do spays and neuters for the general public because of social distancing. “It’s really cutting in our cash flow,” Mr. Jennings said.
The Buellton shelter has seen 10 animals adopted since its March 20 closure to the public and experienced an increased interest in foster homes, said Dr. Shana Schank, its medical director and a veterinarian.
The pandemic is also affecting nonprofit partners for Santa Barbara County Animal Services.
The Santa Barbara County Animal Care Foundation decided to cancel its usual Santa Maria summer camps for youths, but plans to post videos of past activities on its website, President Linda Greco said.
She added that the nonprofit is putting its budgetary priority on emergency medical care for animals. She said lesser priorities during tight fiscal times are spays and neuters, training and education.
K-9 Placement and Assistance League, another nonprofit partner, has seen a big increase in inquiries about adoptions and foster homes.
“One of our volunteers asked, ‘The longer you foster, isn’t it more difficult to let go of the dog?” K-9 PALS President Janelle Ward said. “Yes, I think that’s what we always hope for, that people get attached. We know it’s a home where everything is working well.”
For more information, go to www.asapcats.org, www.bunssb.org., www.countyofsb.org/phd/animal/aboutus.sbc , www.facebook.com/capaoflompoc, www.sbcanimalcare.org, www.sbhumanesociety.org, shadowsfund.org, www.syvhumane.org and www.vivashelter.org.