We’ve felt super proud to partner with Lucky Dog Animal Rescue throughout the pandemic to produce some heart-melting BYT Instagram takeovers. They’ve recently gotten in a brand new group of animals (including cats and dogs) from Puerto Rico, so we decided to talk to Executive Director Mirah Horowitz about that, as well as advice for people who are considering adopting a pet for the first time:
It’s so great to see that such a big number of animals were able to come from Puerto Rico, and that so many have already been adopted; I’m sure that’s a hugely challenging (albeit rewarding) task as-is, but what things have stood out as unique hurdles due to the pandemic?
The pandemic has been especially hard for our partners in Puerto Rico and Kauai who rely on flights to get their animals from their respective islands to the mainland of the United States. Commercial flights have been drastically reduced during this pandemic, and the number of flights that can safely carry live animals in cargo is quite small. Thus, we have really struggled to assist these partners with animals that desperately need transfer to rescue partners. We have the demand in the DC area to easily adopt these animals out — we just cannot get them here. The other challenge we faced specifically for this flight was crates. Puerto Rico has not had a large supply of crates available to rescuers, particularly because they were not an essential item that could be sold during their quarantine period. We were lucky to be able to bring crates down with us.
And on that same note, how (if at all) has the way you operate daily and/or the adoption application process changed during the Covid-19 restrictions?
So much has changed! Luckily, we had been transitioning to an online form system in the months leading up to COVID, which turned out to be a great stroke of luck and timing. Our adoptions are largely virtual at this point. Screenings take place via phone or video; meet and greets with animals take place virtually; hand offs are done as contact-less as possible. We stopped holding adoption events in March, but are looking to start in July with RSVP only socially distant adoption events for pre-approved adopters. This will allow people to meet a few dogs at once. We also have different protocols for transport arrivals, in which we call adopters and fosters as we unload the transport van, have them drive up, and then place the dog in the car without contact.
Additionally, I know I read a lot of things about how there was a surge in adoption rates all over, which is fantastic, but I personally wondered (especially after reading about some cases in China where animals had been abandoned after their owners got sick and/or couldn’t come back home for the lengthy quarantine period) whether you have seen any cases where animals are coming to you because of coronavirus, rather than being adopted because of coronavirus.
We have only had one case of an animal being returned because an adopter had COVID. The adopter had recovered but had secondary health issues that became a bigger challenge to pet ownership as a result of their COVID battle. We are working very hard to make sure that people realize that adopting a pet is not a COVID-commitment. It’s a forever commitment.
I also imagine some people have become quite ambitious about their capacity to take on the responsibility of a pet during this time; first of all, has this been a problem for Lucky Dog in any capacity, just in terms of people realizing they’ve underestimated the task at hand, and/or is there any advice you would offer someone considering adopting? (To me, a lot of things seem obvious, but I’ve had dogs and been around animals my whole life, so I think I take that for granted whereas others might not have that “no-brainer” experience.)
We have certainly seen this. We have also seen people come back and want to return quickly because they hoped the dog or cat would aid with their anxiety during this time, but that the added responsibility actually exacerbated that anxiety. In those situations, we try to encourage people to give it some time so they can settle into a routine etc. In terms of advice, I recommend people think about how the addition of a pet will fundamentally alter your life. Are you able to commit to that now — while you may be working from home — as well as in the future, when you will be going back to work. And, would you be able to care for your pet if you ended up exposed and forced to quarantine.
If people aren’t able to take on a pet right now, but they still want to help, what is the best way for them to support you as an organization?
DONATE! We have had to cancel our two big fundraising events this year. We’ll be working on a virtual event that we hope people attend!
And I know you all literally just got in this new group of animals, but do you have any other big undertakings coming up that you want to let people know about?
We bring in animals every week. :). We constantly have dogs, cats, kittens and puppies so if people are interested in adopting, they should definitely reach out. We are also just starting a virtual walk with Best Friends Animal Society called Strut Your Mutt. People can sign up to join our virtual team here.