Proven Strategies

Black and white cat in a blue bed

Helping the Public Plan for their Pets’ Care During Crisis

If you’ve been able to tap into the residents in your city or county to foster or adopt the animals in your care, you know the power of community engagement. As more pet owners are facing the possibility that they will get sick and need to relinquish their companion animal into someone else’s care temporarily, it’s time to use that powerful public force once again.  

Though the messages are still a bit mixed as to whether people who are sick with COVID-19 and must be hospitalized should foster out their pets, board them, or take them to shelters, the latter is the last thing the animal welfare community wants. And since there is no epidemiological evidence that pets and people can pass the coronavirus back and forth, placing cats and dogs into foster homes—or finding ways for them to continue being cared for within their own homes—is always preferable to sending them to a shelter.  

As network partners with access to all kinds of resources online and a robust understanding of the sheltering system, you are in the best position to educate the community and help them plan for their animals’ care should the worst happen. Share the following resources and our Pet Preparedness Plan Kit with your community so individuals can help themselves, their neighbors, and their animals during the coronavirus outbreak:  

Build an Action Team  

Neighbors helping neighbors is the most effective means of assisting individual pet owners, so your organization should provide guidance on how to build an action team within individual neighborhoods. For the most efficient logistics, teams should be between somewhere between five and 30 people. They should establish a communications channel via Next Door, WhatsApp, Facebook closed groups or Google Groups. 

Teach the Public to “Think Lost Not Stray”  

Encourage people who find animals that appear to be lost to do their own detective work rather than just bringing them to the shelter. Help them understand that a wandering cat or dog is not necessarily an abandoned pet using the strategies shared by Mission Reunite on its website.  

Make Animals Inside Cards Available  

Like the kindness cards, these cards can be shared virtually. Pet owners can place these in their windows to show how many pets are inside the home as well as print a small wallet-size card. 

Assist People with Planning Ahead  

Pet owners should have a plan for who will take care of their pets in the event they are unable to, alert neighbors they have a pet(s) in their home and be prepared with supplies for their pet. We’ve made creating such a plan simple by using our Pet Preparedness Plan Kit. It also includes a template that people can post on their front door giving animal control officers the authority to enter their homes to retrieve any pets inside.

Don’t Forget the Community Cats 

Though colony caregivers don’t really think of themselves as “owners” of the cats, they are just as committed to them as many pet parents. Reach out to those in your city or county who do TNR and help them build out plans for help taking care of their cats in the event they get sick.  

Diversify Your Message Delivery System 

Use as many methods as possible to reach residents who are tech-savvy as well as those who don’t even own a computer or smart phone.  Consider sending action teams going door to door, post on social media and your website, set up a voicemail that explains the need for planning for pets, and get your message onto TV and the radio.  

Tune in To Our Town Hall 

If you want more information about how community-based programs can help the public from being overly reliant on animal shelters during and after the pandemic, register for our town hall at 6 p.m. Eastern time on Wednesday, April 8th.  

Keep Partnering with the Public in Proactive Ways  

While many shelters have historically not wanted to trust their communities, it’s more important than ever before. We are all in this together; it’s time to look outside your shelter walls and lead your constituents in efforts to save lives right in their own backyard. 

Stacy Rogers
Regional Director, Midwest
Best Friends Animal Society

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