Adoptions during the COVID-19 pandemic have an added complication—how can you hand off an animal to an adopter when social distancing must be maintained?
To answer that question, use these tips to help your staff, volunteers, fosters, and adopters conduct contactless handoffs that reduce the risk for both the people and animals involved.
Have an Action Plan
Before putting any wheels into motion, think through every step of your handoff process and decide how each will be done. Important factors to consider are:
Animal equipment and supplies. What walking or carrying equipment, food, medications, and other supplies need to go with this animal? The more easily laundered or disinfected, the better.
Transportation. Will the animal be traveling in the foster or adopter’s vehicle or a vehicle owned by your organization? For vehicles that will continue transporting animals after this handoff, make sure to follow your organization’s sanitization protocols. Would it make sense to use a ride share service instead?
Location of Transfer. Is the animal being dropped off or picked up at the shelter, at a foster or adopter’s home, or at another mutually agreeable location? Regardless of what location you decide, try to do the handoff outside if it is safe to do so.
Method of Transfer. How will the animal get from one person’s hands to another?
If the dog can fit into a crate: Place the crate on the ground and step back six feet. Then, have the foster or adopter come forward and pick it up.
If the dog cannot fit into a crate: If the option is available, load the dog directly into the hatchback or backseat of the foster or adopter’s car or do the handoff in a fenced-in area where the leash can be dropped and space can be maintained. If neither of these options is available, a physical leash hand-off may be necessary. Make sure you are keeping as much distance as possible during this handoff while maintaining a firm grasp on the leash.
Place the crate on the ground and step back six feet. Then, have the adopter or foster come forward and pick it up.
Place the horse into the appropriate stall as directed by the adopter. Remove the lead and halter, step out of the stall, and close the door.
Create a Go-Kit
Having the right supplies on-hand during a no-touch handoff is important. Prepare your go-kit ahead of time, and make sure it contains the following items:
Towels and paper towels
Additional PPE according to CDC guidelines and your organization’s protocol. This is especially important for circumstances such as known COVID-exposure or animal illness.
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
Communication is key to ensuring that a contactless handoff goes smoothly.
Utilize phone, email, and text messages prior to the handoff to minimize the number of face-to-face conversations needed. Make sure to relay all the details of the process and emphasize that the handoff will be no-contact and that social distancing measures will be practiced. You should also ask if the person receiving the animal has had any known contact or suspected contact with an individual infected with COVID-19 or has any respiratory symptoms such as cough, chills, shortness of breath, sore throat, or fever. If their answer is “yes,” be sure to follow CDC guidelines and your organization’s protocols.
For drop-offs, call or text the person receiving the animal with your ETA when you depart. Call or text them again when you arrive.
Practice Proper Hygiene and Sanitization
There’s more to staying safe than just maintaining six feet of space. To keep everyone involved in the process healthy, make sure to:
Wipe down all contact surfaces, like carrier handles, with disinfectant right before handoff.
Make sure the parties involved are wearing proper PPE, like face masks and gloves, and have hand sanitizer on hand. Additional PPE may be required for certain situations—for example, if an animal has known COVID exposure or is showing signs of illness —so be sure to follow CDC guidelines and your organization’s protocols. After handing off the animal, staff or volunteers should dispose of their gloves in a public trash receptacle, if available, or their go-kit’s trash bag.
Remove any towels or blankets covering dog or cat carriers during the handoff. Have the receiver replace the towel or blanket with their own.
If the handoff requires driving, make sure the driver uses hand sanitizer after loading the animal into the vehicle but before touching the interior.
To see examples of contactless cat and equine handoffs in action, watch the videos below.