Impact of the Pandemic on the Welfare of Animals in Boone County
While the ripples from the COVID-19 pandemic continue to show their effects on our county’s health care network, school districts, supplies, etc., there is another community partner who is also being deeply impacted by the pandemic ripples and desperately needs our help—the Humane Society for Boone County (HSforBC).
I spoke with HSforBC Executive Director Susan Austin who shared HSforBC’s specific needs and how the community can help the county’s animal shelter and programs that exist to help the county’s dogs and cats. I was surprised to learn that the issues affecting services at HSforBC go far beyond its physical location. The veterinarian and pet wellness industry as a whole has taken hard blows since 2020, and there doesn’t seem to be a clear end in sight to these rather sobering issues.
If you’re done with feeling helpless about some of these issues and are interested in helping with some of the actual “solvable” problems, Austin shared how people can make a real difference.
Advocating for the Animals
HSforBC has remained a good steward of its dollars even throughout the pandemic. Austin shared, “We adjusted the belt buckle and made sure that we didn’t spend money that we didn’t need to spend. We spend it wisely, taking advantage of purchasing things in bulk and doing things like that.”
Austin explained that it was hard for her to ask for donations and assistance at the beginning of the pandemic because she was sensitive to the fact that there were children who weren’t eating because they weren’t at school to get school lunches. She didn’t want to “compete” for donor dollars against the local organizations who just as desperately needed the financial support from local residents and the business community.
“For the first six months of , we didn’t ask for assistance,” Austin said. “We just made sure we kept the ‘Pet Pantry’ going and that we were able to take it out to the people in the community. We went through more than 28,000 pounds of dry [pet] food alone last year in our pet pantries. We try to align our pet pantries with food pantries throughout Boone County so that we know it is going to people who might otherwise be using their ‘food’ dollars on their animals.”
According to Austin, HSforBC and local veterinarians are having serious difficulties with procuring necessary vaccines for dogs and cats due to supply chain issues. And there are simply not enough veterinarians and clinics in the area to service all of the dogs and cats that were adopted over the last two years.
“There have been plenty of times that we’ve been scrambling to find vaccines,” Austin said. “There’s also a significant delay in getting low-cost spay/neuter services. We’ve had to go to a ‘foster to adopt’ model because as of July 1, 2021, rescues and shelters are all required to alter all animals being adopted. So, we can’t complete any adoption until the animal is altered. That used to be a week or two weeks’ wait—and is now four to six weeks, sometimes eight.”
Additionally, HSforBC has seen an uptick in animal surrenders in the last year.
Austin added, “We’ve had more cat surrenders because their owners are passing away. And there seem to be more unclaimed dogs and strays.”
What Can You Do to Help HSforBC?
In addition to the hardships of finding vaccines and services for the dogs and cats in its care, HSforBC has lost several of its core volunteers as another cause/effect of the pandemic.
“We practice [COVID-19] protocols and don’t have too many people in the building all at once, but we have lost a lot of our volunteers,” Austin expressed. “We have also recognized that we need to renovate the shelter—especially the cat area—to create the best ventilation and better temperature control. We have been sharing a 10-by-6 office for two people, and so we need some additional office space. We also need an extension on the back of the dog area for more dogs and more storage for the pet pantry because I don’t see the need for that going away anytime soon.”
So, how can you help HSforBC? Get tickets for this year’s Fur Ball on Saturday, Feb. 26. The annual fundraiser, presented by TDS and HSforBC, will be held in person and will also offer a virtual component so that more people can participate regardless of their comfort thresholds.
“This year, we’ve got a limited number of tables [tables of eight], and we’re going to be practicing social distancing,” Austin explained. “We’ll have about a third less tables than what we normally do. We’re still going to have our live and silent auctions, and for the people who want to join us [virtually], we have an in-home party kit so they can participate along with us. The silent auction will open [online] the Sunday before the event and will close at noon the Sunday after.”