Sheltering in place might seem like it’d make it more difficult to adopt a pet, but Richmond Animal League has digitized the process to make sure adoptions continue even in the midst of quarantine.
As the COVID-19 outbreak continues to disrupt our way of life, one local animal shelter is working to ensure that people can still experience the much-needed pick-me-up of adopting or fostering a pet in their home. After all, pets don’t get COVID-19, and there’s no indication that they can carry it on their fur either. So, with social distancing becoming the order of the day, Richmond Animal League has recreated their services in virtual form.
The process begins on RAL’s website, where all of the animals currently available for adoption are listed. Once you find a pet you’re interested in getting to know and complete an application for adoption, things go in a virtual direction.
“If somebody is interested in knowing more about that pet, we then connect them with the foster home and encourage them to virtually meet the pet,” said RAL Executive Director Elizabeth Thomas. “They’re getting creative with it.” Meetings between you and your potential new pet can take place over the same services we’re all using right now to keep in touch with our human friends — Zoom, Facetime, and other person-to-person video software.
The process remains appropriately socially distanced throughout; even when the final adoptions take place, the transfer of pets from RAL to new owners is taking place outside the building in order to ensure that no one comes in close contact with one another.
With everyone isolated in their homes at the moment, RAL’s biggest concern is staying connected with the community. Their efforts to do so have gone far beyond facilitating pet adoptions — which are on the rise all over the country.
“We want to make sure those people who have pets and, at this point in time, may be suffering financially, that they continue to be able to keep their pets,” said Thomas.
In order to serve this purpose, RAL has created a Pet Food Pantry to ensure that members of the community facing financial hardships have access to pet food. Recently, when supplies were running low, RAL put out a public call for donations to the Pet Food Pantry and received ten times the amount of donations they’d hoped for. However, they can always use more help, and are continuing to accept donations through their Amazon wish list or in-person dropoffs at the shelter.
But the connections RAL are creating have gone far beyond basic necessities; they’ve also worked to create a sense of community through their social media accounts.
“We love social media,” said Thomas. “We did a virtual spirit week, where we encouraged the community to participate with us.” Themes for days in that week included Twinning With Your Pet Day and Make Your Pet a Meme Day. “We’re working right now to come up with some other things like that on social media — to keep people engaged, and to have fun.”
The coronavirus has created a bigger need for temporary foster homes for pets, and RAL’s efforts to find those homes have helped them introduce more people than ever to the fulfilling feeling that comes from having a pet around the house.
“The silver lining is that people are experiencing what fostering is like, they’ve never done that before,” said Thomas. “I think that’s only going to help us to save more lives going forward, when we have more people in the community who can open up their doors to help homeless pets.”
RAL has received a great deal of support from the community thus far, and they’re very thankful for it. “We always knew Richmond was fantastic, but I think it’s just shown the heart of Richmond even more,” said Thomas.
If you wish to support RAL at this time, donations can be made at their website, ral.org, as well as to their Amazon wish list. Those who are interested in providing temporary emergency foster homes for pets in need can fill out this form to get the process started. If you need assistance from the RAL’s Pet Food Pantry, drop by the shelter at 11401 International Dr in North Chesterfield, or email [email protected]
Top Photo via Richmond Animal League/Facebook