‘Something so wonderful in a time of chaos’
The cliché is old, the circumstances much too current.
The St. Joseph Bay Humane Society feared the worst as coronavirus was sweeping into Florida earlier this year.
But it all turned out for the best.
As March unfolded with the coronavirus making its unrelenting march, the SJBHS faced tough choices.
Hurricane Michael had smashed the shelter just 18 months prior; the pandemic hit as the humane society was just finding its footing and had a shelter that was brimming.
And that was hardly the time to accept any animals, a significant concern for the humane society that it would be overrun by abandoned animals.
Particularly, as the humane society shelter recently received its certification as a “no-kill” shelter; there was little room at the inn, so to speak.
Further, the pandemic closed transports to the Northeast which have for years been part of the shelter’s efforts to find forever homes for animals.
Nationwide, shelters were facing efforts to “clear the shelter” by ramping up fostering and finding temporary homes for animals.
“We thought people would be dumping their animals left and right, filling our already full shelter,” said Caitlin Godwin, the shelter’s adoption coordinator. “Yet, our community continues to amaze us with their generosity and love for these animals.”
And, my, did that community respond when the SJBHS put out the word in March that sponsors were desperately needed as it needed to clear its shelter as much as possible.
Let’s face facts, chaos reigns within an animal shelter for many reasons.
“Stress, tragedy, abuse and neglect are our everyday reality,” Godwin said.
But doors had to be closed to the public and somehow animals disbursed to fosters.
“There seemed to be no way anyone would want to adopt an animal now,” Godwin said. “Boy, we were wrong.”
Inspired by a Burger King commercial for “contactless pickup,” Godwin and the shelter staff established a foster pick-up station on the shelter porch to allow for contact fee pick-ups.
“We joked we felt like bank tellers, speaking to the families through our glass door as they picked up their new best friend,” Godwin said.
Two rather remarkable threads were revealed.
First the shelter population.
Since March shelter’s entire cat population has been placed in found foster homes and just 12 dogs remain at the shelter.
In October 2019, the shelter housed 10 times that number of dogs.
And many of those fosters are heading in the direction of permanence.
“So many foster families have fallen in love with their foster pet and decided to adopt,” Godwin said. “We are so proud to be part of something so uplifting and wonderful in a time of chaos.”
In addition, some of the most difficult to adopt or foster dogs have found new, if only temporary, homes.
A dog afraid of its shadow, another that had been in three prior foster situations and was suffering separation anxiety and the last puppy from a litter born at the shelter.
Adopters have come from far and wide including a pre-COVID-19 couple on vacation who read about the program.