While shelters nationwide emptied out during the beginning of stay-at-home orders, two Long Beach rescue and adoption centers share how pets are still widely sought after over a year later.
“We went from having a lot of animals to just a few dogs and cats, which we’ve never ever, ever had, and I’ve been here almost 16 years,” Lieutenant Heidi Poe said, senior animal control officer at Long Beach Animal Care Services.
Together with other local rescues, the shelter has been able to dramatically decrease the amount of animals in its care.
According to Poe, adoptions are still high at LBACS this year.
“We constantly have people trying to book appointments for cats and dogs,” Poe said. “The adoptions are still very strong and doing really good.”
When the coronavirus pandemic hit, LBACS had to undergo several changes in order to follow social distancing regulations. While some staff had been able to work from home, those who worked in-person had to rearrange their workspaces to accommodate the six-foot distancing rule. In addition, some staff’s hours were modified to work longer hours, but less days.
The shelter remains closed to the public and is open by appointment only.
Poe said that it’s been very challenging figuring out how to do the same job with all the precautions set in place as well as figuring out how to operate the shelter without having people come in and see the animals.
“We’ve had to be clever,” Poe said. “We had to really reevaluate a lot of things, but we made it work.”
For many animal shelters and rescues, volunteers are essential. Poe said that animals are very hands-on, and it was difficult not having the extra support provided by the volunteers who help in several ways.
“They help the staff, they help walk animals, they give water, they give enrichment every day and they really help keep the animals healthy and happy,” Poe said.
After the stay-at-home order was lifted, LBACS allowed some of their core group of lead volunteers to return.
Despite the many challenges faced last year, the shelter continues to treat and adopt out as many animals as they can in 2021.
“We’re going to do our best to support the animals and support the people of our community,” Poe said. “And we’re going to try to really work on getting a strong foster and volunteer program going.”
In addition to adoptions, interest in fostering has significantly increased throughout the past year.
Live Love Animal Rescueis a local non-profit dog rescue that partnered with LBACS to clear out the shelter during the coronavirus pandemic.
Angela Robinson, board chair and grants manager at Live Love, said that they have received more foster applications than ever before.
“We had 400 to 500 new people sign up to foster which is an amazing record-setting number for us,” Robinson said.
Because of the influx of applications, Live Love implemented a program called Rescue Aunties and Uncles that allowed newer fosters to connect with and be supported by more experienced and well-trained fosters.
Through its fostering program, Live Love has been able to place the dogs that weren’t adopted from LBACS into homes, all while continuing to provide support and special training services.
While in the foster program, dogs were placed for adoption. Robinson said they received more applications for adoption in 2020 than they had the year before.
“We definitely saw the community rally for dogs in need during this time,” Robinson said.
Since the coronavirus pandemic, Live Love has seen a number of dogs that had to be surrendered due to health and economic reasons.
“We’re definitely seeing that the public health issues as well as the economic issues are affecting people and their ability to keep their pets that they love and want to keep,” Robinson said.
In 2021, Robinson said that their priority is to help keep families together.
Despite how devastating and challenging this pandemic has been, it has provided an opportunity for thousands of shelter animals to find their forever homes.
“It was kind of a blessing in disguise for us,” Poe said. “With a lot of people home, adoptions went up and rescues went up, we worked differently, and we were able to get the animals out very fast.”
This story was updated on March 23 at 1:26 p.m. to include two photos of people fostering dogs.