COVID-19 Animal Welfare Survey Offers View of Future Shelter Operations
From June 2020 to March 2021, the ASPCA and Adopt-a-Pet.com surveyed hundreds of municipal shelters, private shelters, rescues, and other groups on how COVID-19 affected their operations, foster programs, and community outreach.
The important findings below were explored during a subsequent webinar featuring panelists from three organizations who shared how they worked through the challenges of the pandemic and revealed what policies and protocols implemented during COVID-19 they’re carrying forward.
Impact on Operations
Most organizations said that, although their fundraising operations were limited or non-functioning, their behavioral and medical support for shelter animals, foster care, and intake functioned as usual or with slight limitations.
Areas of increased focus included foster care, adoptions, community services, and fundraising.
When asked what operational changes would remain in place post-pandemic, the most common answers were adoptions by appointment only, increased use of foster homes, and increased services to support pet retention and improve care.
Foster Care Opportunities and Challenges
80% of responders reported having foster care systems in place.
60% of organizations reported needing more foster caregivers, while 16% said they have all the foster caregivers they need. About a third of the participants reported needing help managing their foster networks.
53% of groups encouraged their foster caregivers to place animals directly, rather than returning animals to the shelter first. About 60% said their fosters frequently aid in adoptions, and roughly 40% reported their fosters frequently facilitate adoptions themselves.
About 42% of responders reported that foster caregivers experienced behavioral issues with their foster animals infrequently, while less than 10% reported frequent behavior issues.
A majority of organizations (between 51-56%) reported that most of their foster caregivers did not return animals when shelter-in-place orders were lifted.
The most frequently reported community need was medical support for owned animals; this percentage increased from 28% to 34% from June to December, then dropped slightly to 30% in March 2021.
While 25% of survey participants perceived a large increase in animal surrenders prompted by pet owners’ financial hardship, and an additional 43% reported a slight increase, this perception was not reflected in actual shelter intake data, which shows no significant intake increase.
The ASPCA believes the data from this survey will help shelters and rescue groups identify areas of beneficial innovation, improve their post-pandemic operations, and be better prepared for future crises.
Read the full survey report.
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