Columbus-Lowndes Humane Society staff member Trudy McDanell takes shelter resident Hidi out for a walk at the facility on Airline Road Wednesday. CLHS, like other area humane societies, has changed its policies in light of the spread of COVID-19. Photo by: Courtesy photo
March 30, 2020 12:30:29 PM
A woman adopting a dog at the Columbus-Lowndes Humane Society walks out the door with her new furry friend, and the spartan staff at the animal shelter goes into sanitizing mode.
The cleaning process takes place after every visitor. Only one pre-approved adopting individual or couple is permitted in the building at a time, and those by appointment. Shelter hours are temporarily reduced to noon-5 p.m. week days, and volunteers are told not to come in during this time of COVID-19 social distancing.
"It's an added load on the staff that are here, but we can't risk anyone getting sick," said CLHS Executive Director Karen Johnwick.
The nearly 80 current shelter animals, of course, still need "forever homes."
"We're still having adoptions, thank goodness, but we're asking people to get pre-approved if they're interested in doing that," said Johnwick. She referred the public to the adoption application at clhumanesociety.org. "Then we'll call them and make them an appointment time to come in."
The CLHS low-cost spay-and-neuter program continues for now, but on a reduced basis, according to Johnwick. The foster program is on hold, and anyone wishing to make donations of supplies or dog and cat food is asked to call the humane society at 662-327-3107 to set up a time for drop-off.
Changes like these, and others, are taking place at shelters throughout the Golden Triangle to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Adjustments are stringent at the Oktibbeha County Humane Society in Starkville.
"Our board leadership made the very difficult decision to close to adoptions," said Martha Thomas, the shelter's director of community relations. "Our top priority is the animals in our care and the staff caring for them."
Those animals in the facility and in foster homes currently number more than 100.
OCHS is not closed to intake of animals. That can be done by calling 662-338-9093 to make an appointment.
A recent rise in foster volunteers has helped reduce the animal population in the physical shelter.
"We had a tremendous response from fosters interested in helping us, and they did a fantastic job to take animals into their homes, to have a little quarantine buddy," Thomas said.
Thomas emphasized that animals do not spread COVID-19.
"Sometimes there's information out there that's simply not true," she said. "The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) has said there's no evidence they can spread it.".
West Point Clay County Animal Shelter Director Neely Bryan echoed Thomas' remarks.
"The CDC put out a statement that you cannot catch this thing from your pets," Bryan said.
As at other shelters,volunteers are being told not to report to the West Point facility, which currently houses about 30 animals. Intake numbers are lower than they "have ever been in the history of the shelter," Bryan noted.
While programs like spay-and-neuter are on hold at the Clay County shelter, adoptions are available by appointment by calling 662-524-4430.
"Pets can be such a great source of comfort and peace while we're in this quarantine and self-isolation phase," Bryan said. "Now more than ever, your pets need you, and you need your pets. Hang in there with them because shelters across the country are having to shut down."
Humane society policy changes have been frequent in recent days. All three Golden Triangle organizations urge the public to follow updates on shelter Facebook pages, websites and other social media.
"This is an unprecedented situation that changes daily for us," Thomas said.
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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