In the just prior edition of this RC, your intrepid blogger identified a concern for companion animals who would possibly be put at-risk if their hosts became incapacitated. Like the human hospital system, sheltering and kenneling capacities are limited – and a similar, grim triage would have equally fatal results for the unlucky losers in those sweepstakes. An ad hoc core group of community volunteers was proposed, and several readers rallied to the cause, for which I’m grateful.
In developing protocols for safely providing such services, some problems seemed solvable (cats maintained in their homes, dogs temporarily fostered, PPE and routine precautions for transport), while others loomed large. Those infected Bronx Zoo tigers and Hong Kong dogs were suddenly identified, which upended the initial conventional wisdom about pets’ likely immunity. That development prompted the American Veterinary Medical Association to recommend (out of “abundant caution”) that dogs from infected homes be quarantined away from other domestic critters. Suddenly the logistics became very complicated.
Practical demons also lurked. Would folks really open their homes to strangers – even nearby, identifiable ones, so that Sylvester’s food could be replenished, and litterbox attended? What of mistakes, escapes, accidents, theft accusations and other risks? I can draft a mean Release of Claims, but anyone who would read it might easily conclude they were making a mistake to even consider such a fraught folly. And, of course, what becomes of Bowser if his humans don’t return? It’s simply too much to consider for pet owners, and too much to ask of volunteers.
Fortunately, Melanie Sadek, Executive Director of Valley Humane (and a Board member of the state-wide CalAnimals coalition of shelters and humane groups) agreed to kick the tires of this clunker with me. She, other humane movement leaders and the heads of the eight public shelters hereabouts had already anticipated the concern, agonized through the above analysis and come out with a better solution, in several parts.
First, they encouraged temporary fostering of current shelter residents, to provide swing capacity in case the crunch comes. Many, many companion animals were thus dispersed – Alameda’s FAAS shelter was practically emptied as folks rallied to the cause. BTW, those fostering opportunities still exist.
Second, they developed and distributed a Call to Immediate Action. It has gotten significant media play, strongly advocating direct, conscious forward planning in the care and feeding of Fido. It is urgent for all local pet people to contact their neighbors, nearby friends or pet-sitters they know, meet with them via some safe medium, and directly develop an approach to deal with contingencies.
Clearly, we can’t know in advance which households might be impacted, so there’s an opportunity for real mutual aid commitments among neighbors and friends to ensure that everyone’s pets’ needs are met. “I’d be reluctant to turn over my house to a stranger, but my neighbors already have a key, and my pets know them,” said Sadek. “The Important Thing is to Actually Do It.”
Third, to facilitate that critical link, they’ve provided this downloadable “Profile” form https://valleyhumane.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Emergency-Pet-Profile.pdf to fill-in the possibilities. To it, I’d only add any microchip and/or license information. Melanie also recommends advance preparation of a ‘go bag’ – with that Profile, medications, some regular food, as well as dish, leash, any treats, toys and bedding – and a carrier/crate if you have one.
It has been gratifying generally, and here specifically, to be and see Californians rallying together in community to address the current emergency. Kudos to the humane pros in our existing infrastructure – who have collaborated to widen the safety margins that may well save precious lives in this uncertain time.
Indeed, during these hours of enforced solitude, you might consider expressing that appreciation by cutting a check to Valley Humane https://valleyhumane.salsalabs.org/donate/index.html or the animal welfare organization of your choice. Their skill and dedication keeps our loved ones safe.
To reiterate, and give Ms. Sadek the last word, as above: “The Important Thing is to actually do it!”
Afterword: please know that the severe economic dislocations of this health crisis will linger, and may eventually force some families to part with their companions - surrendering them into the sheltering system. Please remember this aftershock when you go to add or replace a best friend of your own. Let’s keep those shelters emptied – the Important Thing … well, you know the rest.