For most staff onsite at Austin Pets Alive!'s Town Lake location, these are extremely rare sights. But, then again, these are extremely unusual times.
The COVID-19 pandemic has meant a restructuring of adoption and foster protocols. But, even with everything shifting to a virtual format, the movement of APA!'s pets into homes isn't slowing down. In fact, with about 82% of all our animals in foster homes, you could say the No-Kill community is working harder than ever.
Cat Adoption Counselor Kat Solis has been with APA! for five years. After the frantic hustle and bustle of the last couple of weeks, Solis reflects on all the open kennels and quiet group rooms: "It reminds me of Hurricane Harvey."
In 2017, APA! took its innovative lifesaving to Houston when we rushed down to save innocent lives during this southern disaster. By creating temporary shelters and taking in over 2,000 animals from Houston, a city underwater, APA! was about to save hundreds of pets from dying.
When comparing the two crises, Solis says the COVID-19 pandemic feels just as uncertain, but on a bigger scale: “This is not just hitting the coast, but hitting us nationwide; and not knowing when we will get back to normalcy is scary for everyone.”
Now, just as we did then, getting as many animals to foster homes as we can has been key to saving lives in the midst of chaos.
“These last two weeks have been both overwhelming and satisfying, if that makes any sense,” reflects Solis. “Overwhelming because drastic changes are made in an instant for the health of staff members, satisfying because we got all of our cats into foster homes or adopted!”
Solis recalls a special day at the end of March when there were only three cats in our cattery: “Never in my five years with APA! have I seen the numbers so low!” The cattery staff get particularly excited when cats that have been in the shelter for a long time finally get the chance to comfortably live in a home. “Just knowing that we got all of our original cats, [cats] that had been with us for 90-plus days, out of the shelter and into foster homes is so fulfilling. There are almost no words to describe that feeling.” Solis explains that the average length of stay in the APA! cattery before a cat gets adopted or goes to foster is only about three days, an exciting record that truly showcases the success of our cat adoption program.
APA!’s executive director, Dr. Ellen Jefferson, has taken these rapidly changing times as a moment in which we should all be looking at how this can alter the future of animal welfare. What if there’s a better way to do sheltering? Seeing a community rally together once again to open up their homes gives us hope that APA!’s future could always look like this: a network of fosters, a mostly-empty physical shelter, virtual adoptions, all while still saving the most at-risk animals.
Solis totally agrees: “If we could get and keep all of our animals into foster homes until they find their forever home,” she says, “we would make history! [Could] you imagine?”