Holidays for Humane Society

January 7, 2021

For years, a new pet has been a classic gift for the season. Our pets become our companions as we grow up together, creating joyful lifelong memories. The first memory of our pets usually comes from when we meet them for the first time and form that instantaneous bond. Recently being able to form these first memories has been a downfall for many, as shelters have been greatly affected by the horrendous pandemic. We’ve all seen the effects the virus has had on businesses, schools, hospitals, etc. But for animal shelters, a whole new struggle is generated.

Roice-Hurst Humane Society is Mesa County’s main animal protection organization established in 1963. Over the years, they have helped thousands of animals find loving homes. But no one was expecting what 2020 had in store. Once the pandemic hit, the shelter was not only forced to close to the public, but also to volunteers and some staff. To decrease staff risk of contracting COVID, the first step was transporting most of the animals into foster homes. This created free space at the shelter for the community. The shelter’s main purpose became to care for pets whose owners may be in the hospital or to take in pets of those who were facing financial instability due to the pandemic. “Our capacity more than doubled,” executive director Anna Stout explained. While having more space for more animals was an excellent benefit, Roice-Hurst still faced a list of challenges.

Some of the organization’s most popular services had to be shut down, such as the low-cost vaccination clinic, surgeries, and of course, in-person adoptions. The Humane Society’s revenue took a huge hit, as the opportunities to host fundraising events decreased. Anna Stout said they were experiencing a lot of demand from the community, but it was very difficult to keep up. “We’re doing the most with less,” she said. 

While financial stressors continued to loom, the shelter returned to its main purpose- finding animals homes. Stout explained three types of adoption processes the organization has arranged.

First, prospective pet owners are physically allowed to visit the shelter, but by appointment only. Roice-Hurst also began virtual adoption arrangements for those who felt more comfortable staying in their homes, and from there animals could be delivered to their homes. This way, the adoption counseling process could still be completed face-to-face and potential adopters would get a glimpse of the animal’s personality. “We’re matchmakers,” Stout expressed. 

However, as explained before, many pets were moved from the shelter into foster homes, still longing for a permanent residence. The second form of adoption process is through these trained foster owners which Anna referred to as ‘adoption ambassadors.’ These amazing volunteers are trained specifically to feel comfortable processing adoptions, so more animals can find perfect homes. 

Lastly, Roice-Hurst has offsite partners such as Petco and J&M Aquatics which provide shelter for cats ready for adoption. “People going into these stores may not have the intention of adopting a cat, but there are often impulse adoptions,” Stout recounted. This form of adoption has proven very successful as it is more convenient for people. 

Roice-Hurst was able to successfully adapt to the constraints of the pandemic, but they still needed to create engagement with the community. That’s where social media comes in. “We’ve always had a good social media following,” Stout said graciously. And when COVID-19 came into play, that’s when the organization truly stepped it up. Many of the staff members who traditionally worked at the shelter with more administrative roles combined their skills and passion to form a social media team. “It was one of the major silver linings for us,” Stout said. They continued posting on their Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, and even made a TikTok account to grasp more attention. The team arranged to produce YouTube videos as well including a pet meditation session, and guides to becoming a volunteer. Facebook Live was also utilized to inform the community on topics such as housing laws regarding service/emotional support animals, as well as an interview with a veterinarian about COVID risk for pets.

While the pandemic has created many setbacks for Roice-Hurst, the humane society is thriving and has a stronger community bond like never before. They continue to give so much to our community even when 2020 became a huge wrench in plans. The team’s ability to adapt and stay positive throughout this year is unmatched. So this season, practice giving back. Roice-Hurst specifically will take donations, their biggest needs being litter and soft food. If you are unable to make a financial donation, you can help by following their social media (linked below). “We would love to expand our foster network,” Anna Stout stated. 

Also, with the pandemic’s end in view, volunteer opportunities will be opening up. These include helping putting together surgical packages, cleaning, as well as helping animals recover from procedures.

This holiday, make sure to squeeze your pet extra tight and be thankful for those who made it possible for you to have that furry friend in your life. And of course, it’s always worth considering adopting another into your home.

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