How Pittsburgh Shelters Acquired By means of the Pandemic | Animal theme | Pittsburgh

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CP Photo: Kaycee Orwig

Humane Animal Rescue customer advisor Michaela Yonto with rescue dog Cinderella

The coronavirus pandemic has changed so much of the world and has brought things to a standstill in many places. But no animal shelters where things were in full swing. Thanks to the rising demand for adoptions and grooming, animal shelters in cities across America – including Pittsburgh – had very busy times while adhering to congregation restrictions and social distancing standards.

Animal shelters in Pennsylvania were deemed essential by Governor Tom Wolf, which meant they all kept the same services but made some adjustments to how things were operated. Dan Rossi, CEO of Humane Animal Rescue, says this meant big changes to the operation while making sure animals came first.

“More than a year ago we saw a very rapid shutdown and we weren’t sure how to adjust to things. We had to change the way we served people, ”says Rossi. “They were still picking up strays from the street, so we kept all major services running.”

To weather the pandemic, major animal shelters in the Pittsburgh area like Humane Animal Rescue and Animal Friends had to work extra hard to keep workers safe and make sure the animals found suitable homes. But it also resulted in some silver linings. According to Animal Friends, the animals in the shelter were visibly less stressed as the buildings became quieter and quieter during the pandemic. And Humane Animal Rescue saw an increase in dog adoption during the pandemic. Both of the major animal shelters in Pittsburgh also say that there hasn’t been a massive surrender in Pittsburgh when people return adopted pets.

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Pohla Smith, a Humane Animal Rescue volunteer, sits with one of the rescue cats.  - CP PHOTO: KAYCEE ORWIG

CP Photo: Kaycee Orwig

Pohla Smith, a Humane Animal Rescue volunteer, sits with one of the rescue cats.

Rossi says Humane Animal Rescue, which has shelters in the North Side and Homewood, has resumed normal operations and the shelter has an excess of kittens. He hopes the post-pandemic adoption trend in Pittsburgh will be to adopt a cat or kitten.

Rossi says Humane Animal Rescue sees lots of cats every summer, but that summer was especially dramatic when the pandemic was over. “We see a lot of pregnant mothers with kittens, which is typical for most summers, but this year seems to be harder,” says Rossi.

He adds that cat adoptions are not limited to house cats, and notes how Humane Animal Rescue socializes and adapts cats to barns and warehouses where they can help fight rodents.

“Adopt a cat,” says Rossi. “This is a great time to adopt cats, especially kittens.”

Compared to today, the peak of the pandemic last year brought challenges other than an oversupply of kittens.

Rossi says Humane Animal Rescue brought 31% more animals to the shelter in 2020 compared to 2019 during the pandemic. In 2019 the pantry distributed around 14,000 pounds of pet food, but by 2020 that amount has more than tripled to nearly 50,000 pounds.

Humane Animal Rescue staff also had to switch to a roadside model that included veterinary technicians and other staff who adjusted the way they worked.

“Our vets were all on the car side and took the animal out of the car and into the shelter,” says Rossi. “That was a pretty tedious setup. They had to do that in hail and 85-degree weather. Our employees have really strengthened themselves. ”

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Animal Friends volunteer Jeff Gleeson is walking one of the rescue dogs.  - CP PHOTO: KAYCEE ORWIG

CP Photo: Kaycee Orwig

Animal Friends volunteer Jeff Gleeson is walking one of the rescue dogs.

Animal Friends, who run an animal shelter in Ohio Township, also changed the way animals were taken in and adopted. Animal Friends spokesman Cody Höllerman says the Animal Friends team faced many challenges, from staffing to maintaining programs to fundraising.

But as with Humane Animal Rescue, fewer people in the shelter had a calming effect on the animals.

“Although an animal shelter can be an incredibly stressful environment for an animal, the closure actually had some bright spots for them as the building was much quieter and quieter, which visibly reduced the stress for many of our animal residents,” says Höllerman.

The pandemic has also sparked renewed interest in people grooming pets to bring along temporary companions during closings, according to Höllerman. Eventually, many of these foster parents decided to adopt their new furry friend.

“With people working from home and canceling their holidays, it was a great opportunity to give our residents the opportunity to leave their kennels and spend some time at home with a family,” says Höllerman. “And we weren’t surprised when many of these foster families became adoptive parents and gave their foster animals permanent homes.”

Both shelters look forward to a return to something that resembles a pre-pandemic. Humane Animal Rescue is holding its annual on-site gala in Homewood this year and is hoping for a large turnout to make up for the lower donations in 2020. Rossi says they usually host the gala in a convention center or hotel, but what they mean in Homewood is that people can tour the grounds and enjoy the outdoors under a tent. People can also participate virtually.

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At Animal Friends, adoptable rabbits sit in their living spaces.  - CP PHOTO: KAYCEE ORWIG

CP Photo: Kaycee Orwig

At Animal Friends, adoptable rabbits sit in their living spaces.

“We are really looking forward to a hybrid gala,” says Rossi. “We’re going to have tours of the facility and a large tent so people can feel comfortable attending in person.”

Höllerman reminds potential adoptive parents that 2021 will be a lot different than 2020 and that routines have likely changed and should take this into account when introducing a new animal into the family.

“The most important thing for a family considering adopting a pet during the pandemic was to keep an eye on their ‘normal’ routine,” says Höllerman. “Although most people spent more time at home during the pandemic, it was important to remember what their normal routine would be after the pandemic ended.”

Humane animal rescue. 1101 Western Ave., North Side / 6926 Hamilton Ave., Homewood.
Animal lovers. 562 Camp Horne Road, Ohio Ward.

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