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COVID-19 Changes Animal Rescue Efforts in Virginia

Photo courtesy of Virginia Beach SPCA

On March 30, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam issued a statewide temporary stay at home order in response to the novel Coronavirus.

The executive order, which will remain in effect until June 10, requires residents to stay in their homes unless traveling to purchase essential items, seek medical treatment or exercise under the social distancing guidelines.

Social distancing has extended to schools, which have already suspended in-person sessions for the remainder of the school year, restaurants have stopped dine-ins, and state parks have halted overnight stays until further notice. COVID-19 has impacted every aspect of a typical person’s life, and for some, that means putting a halt on finding their “fur-ever” home.

Sign taped to chain linked fence that reads “High School and Facilities Closed Due to Mandatory Precautions of COVID-19.”
Sign taped to chain linked fence that reads “High School and Facilities Closed Due to Mandatory Precautions of COVID-19.”


PetSmart suspends in-store adoption events

Local animal rescue organizations are seeing the impacts COVID-19 has on getting rescue animals into a forever home. Ryan Barker, executive director of Squishy Face Crew, a foster-based animal rescue organization located in Fredericksburg, Virginia, knows first-hand the impact it has had.

“Prior to this, the majority of our adoptions were completed at weekend events either at community functions or in Petcos and Petsmarts across Fredericksburg and Northern Virginia,” Barker wrote. Many animal rescue organizations and businesses like Petsmart and Petco have suspended unessential events to limit the risk of exposure. . “All of these were canceled prior to the stay-at-home order,” Barker wrote.

Essential Does Not Include Spay and Neuter Procedures

List of paused programs and services at the Fairfax County animal Shelter

Spay and neuter surgeries are deemed unessential to the preservation of a pet’s life. “This is a huge one and only went into effect last week, so we are still navigating the waters with this,” Barker wrote. The decision to suspend altering surgeries has many concerned. Allowing pets to be adopted before being spayed or neutered could result in unexpected pregnancies. Others fear an adopted pet could be used for breeding purposes.

However, with the limit of space to help other animals, “we have elected to allow pets to be adopted unaltered...with the stipulation that we will schedule them for surgery at the earliest available opportunity,” Barker wrote. This change in their adoption procedures will allow pets to be adopted and make room for more rescues.

Virtual Adoption Meet and Greets

Photo courtesy of Animal Welfare League of Alexandria

With the cancellation of in-person adoption events, animal rescue organizations have found themselves using social media and video conference platforms such as Zoom to meet prospective adopters. Squishy Face Crew has taken cue from other organizations who are taking advantage of the technology present to share videos of dogs and cats available for adoption.

Video by American Pets Alive!

Fosters have held “virtual meet and greets,” over Zoom, according to Barker. If someone is serious about adopting a pet, an in-person meeting can be scheduled, but must be conducted outdoors and within the social distancing guidelines. “This has been very successful for us, and we’ve received no complaints from foster parents or adopters,” Barker wrote.

Student majoring in Communication and Digital Studies at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia.

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