The significant effects of COVID-19 at the KHS

Hot Off the Collar | Volume 8

As animal welfare specialists, we are intimately familiar with the speed at which a virus can travel and the devastating effect it can have on a population. Parvo, Bordetella and Panleukopenia are just three examples of viruses that can lead to widespread illness within a shelter. To avoid these, we practice our own version of social distancing for animals suspected of an illness and we undertake stringent infection control protocols.

This knowledge and experience helped us to arrive at a decision to close our doors to the public on Tuesday, March 17th. We’ve also suspended non-urgent owner surrenders, asked our volunteers to stay home and we’ve gone to online applications and appointment-only meet and greets for adopters. These decisions obviously significantly affect our operations. Many of the animals in our care will likely stay with us much longer than normal. Dog-walking and cat cuddling – essential care practices normally done by our volunteers – will be added to a long list of existing staff duties. That list includes increased disinfection and sanitization protocols, self-monitoring for symptoms and self-isolation if necessary.

On Monday when I announced that we would be closing to the public, I was shaken by the anxiety and uncertainty it provoked. When I assured staff that, thanks to the compassion and support of our Board of Directors, no one would suffer financial hardship as a result of the pandemic, the anxiety and uncertainty was replaced by that look of determination and commitment that I’ve written about so often. Our board, like most in the not-for-profit sector, is made up of volunteers who themselves are facing uncertain footing as we move forward in these unprecedented times. I applaud them for their commitment to the wellbeing of our animals and our staff.

Amazing volunteers rise to the occasion

Volunteers are the lifeblood of the Kingston Humane Society. We simply could not do what we do without them. When we began calling volunteers to tell them to stay home, something extraordinary happened. Many refused. Despite the risk, they didn’t want the animals to suffer. Once we assured them that we were following KFL&A Public Health recommendations and that we were doing our best to empty the shelter by getting animals out to foster homes; they understood. Then came the flood of offers to foster. In less than 48 hours just over half of the animals in the building have been fostered by volunteers or staff – with several more scheduled to go to temporary homes today. That is simply incredible and speaks to the generosity of our volunteers and the commitment of our staff. This allows us to assume responsibility of the volunteer duties while attending to an increased task list, without undue hardship.

That leaves just one hole to fill. How do we offset the significant loss of donations due the cancellation of two major fundraisers – Bowl for the Animals and Unleash the Treats? These two events were expected to bring in $40,000 in much-needed revenue. We’ve asked people to continue asking for pledges and to continue donating to our Bowlers. We’ve asked people to consider donating online instead of buying delicious baked goods. We understand it may be difficult to consider donations when the future is clouded by uncertainty and our focus needs to be on the health and wellbeing of our families and our communities. Thank you so much for anything you can do to help fill the gap.

As I noted above, the KHS understands the drastic impact of viruses and we know the effect can be widespread and unpredictable. If you are able to increase your standard donation, or continue to give despite the lack of event-based fundraisers, we can’t thank you enough. If, like so many, you are reducing your financial burdens until the world returns to something akin to normal, we absolutely understand that too. More than ever, the Kingston Humane Society remains committed to its mission and to its role as a community partner.

We wish you all good health and we hope you enjoy a bit more time in the company of your animal companions. As one of our staff noted, beloved pets who might normally spend part of each day home alone, must be reveling in the increased attention.

– Gord Hunter, Executive Director

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#KHSBigPawsCanada

In 2020, Big Paws isn’t just going virtual – it’s going NATIONAL. Join us as we walk the equivalent of coast-to-coast across Canada. Register below and submit the kilometers you walk with your pet. From September 15 – October 22nd, walk across the country with us in support of the KHS and animal welfare.

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