When the impacts of COVID-19 began to be severely felt in Massachusetts, the Animal Rescue League of Boston (ARL) did what so many other organizations and businesses did across the state – altered day-to-day operations for the health and safety of staff, volunteers, clients and the animals we care for.
While ARL placed more than 200 animals into foster care in mid-March and suspended adoption services, as an organization ARL was extremely active in helping animals in need and caring for the communities we serve.
Placing animals in foster care had multiple benefits.
First, it allowed the animals to be removed from the shelter environment, which can be stressful for some, and into a home setting.
A home setting is not only less stressful, but it also gives ARL’s Animal Care Associates a better understanding on what these animals are like in a home, making it easier to find their perfect match.
Another benefit was creating open kennel space at ARL’s Animal Care and Adoption Centers, in the event that emergency animal intakes became necessary for pet owners.
From March 16 to May 31, ARL did see a surge in intake, as 286 animals came through ARL’s doors – 134 in Boston alone.
These animals came to ARL in a variety of ways – emergency owner surrenders primarily due to COVID-19-related hardship, adopted animals returned, law enforcement cases, transport from other municipalities, among others.
The majority of the animals were cats, with 180 felines coming into ARL’s Boston, Dedham and Brewster Animal Care and Adoption Centers.
There were 72 dogs that came through intake, the remaining 34 animals were small animals and livestock.
While adoption services were suspended, ARL’s Law Enforcement Department remained busy during the past two-and-a-half months.
From January 1, 2020 through May 15, ARL’s Law Enforcement Department had 128 new cases reported, involving 600 animals.
However, over the past two months alone, ARL Law Enforcement opened 56 new cases, involving 189 animals.
During the past two months, ARL Law Enforcement has responded to hoarding-type situations, a number of animal cruelty situations including a cat in Framingham that was shot with a high-powered pellet gun, several instances of animal abandonment, and also assisted in a number of non-cruelty cases including the return of a geriatric stray cat to its family in Winchendon.
Serving Communities in Need
Along with suspending adoption services, an additional byproduct of COVID-19 was the suspension of ARL community services, primarily the Wellness Waggin’ and Spay Waggin’ – two programs that bring veterinary services directly into the communities ARL serves.
The question was how can we still serve our communities in spite of stay at home orders and the growing impacts of COVID-19?
The answer came in the form of ARL’s Keep Pets S.A.F.E. (Supporting Animals Facing Emergencies) Program.
The program, initially funded by a $30,000 grant through PetSmart Charities®, has allowed ARL to support community partners Action for Boston Community Development (ABCD) and Boston Senior Home Care (BSHC), by providing their clients with pet food and supplies and other urgent assistance.
Clients of ARL’s Wellness Waggin’ are also eligible for assistance.
ARL has provided the following services to clients who qualify for the program:
- Deliver pet food and other essential pet supplies to clients’ homes and partner-supported community housing;
- Pick up pets to provide critical veterinary care and return them to their owner;
- Provide temporary emergency shelter for pets and offer pick up and return of the pet to their owner or a designated caregiver;
- Arrange for emergency and essential surrender of pets with pick up service.
To date, the Keep Pets S.A.F.E. Program has received more than 300 requests for assistance, secured more than 75,000 individual healthy meals for pets, delivered essential supplies and pet food to more than 160 clients, and provided telemedicine or critical veterinary care to more than two dozen clients.
While Massachusetts slowly reopens, the need remains, and ARL is committed to keep this program running for as long as it’s needed to assist the communities we serve in the Greater Boston area.
For more information on ARL’s Keep Pets S.A.F.E. Program, and to see if you qualify, log onto arlboston.org/safe.
This important work is made possible by the generosity of people like you.
While it is difficult to predict the long-term impact of this global crisis, one thing remains constant—animals are still in need.
By lending your support, you ensure that animals in Massachusetts can get the care they count on including food, sanctuary, medical care, love, and emergency rescue if they are in danger.