Animal Shelters Cope with COVID-19 Crisis

Mar 24, 2020

Dogs and cats are not vulnerable to coronavirus, but the current crisis has created big problems for animal shelters here in Virginia. 

Fredericksburg's SPCA canceled a fundraiser but was able to raise $2,500 by offering portraits of pets from photographs.
Credit Fredericksburg SPCA

Staying home during a pandemic can be a lonely affair for those with no family, but some Virginians have found a solution – offering foster care for animals from their local shelter.

“We have right now 245 animals in foster, which is just amazing," says Angie Gunter, CEO of the Charlottesville-Albemarle SPCA. "We really need that right now.  Our revenue streams have pretty much come to a halt.”

She told us fostering is helpful, since the shelter won’t be holding a big fundraiser it had planned this spring.

“We had to cancel our annual bowwow walk, so instead we’re doing a virtual bowwow walk.  We’re encouraging people to get outside and walk their dog and track it through an app.”

And in Fredericksburg, SPCA communications director Von Young came up with Plan B when their fundraiser was canceled.  They invited the community to submit photos of their pets, and – in exchange for a small donation – volunteer artists drew portraits of dogs and cats.

“So some came out with like little party hats or they created the dog in an artistic scene with a little beret and a painting," Young explains. "It was a lot of fun.”

There too, she adds, most animals have found foster homes.

“It’s been crazy and chaotic, but our community is amazing and we’ve all banded together for these animals.”   

Pets are still available for adoption by appointment in Fredericksburg and Charlottesville, and both shelters are asking for donations of cash and food as pet owners who’ve lost their jobs consider giving up their dogs or cats. 

“We know down the road we’re going to see an influx of animals because of this," Gunter says. "If you have to choose between feeding your children or your pet, I think you’re going to choose your children.” 

Fortunately,  the shelter is able to provide food to owners who want to keep their animals but can’t afford to feed them, and limited assistance is available for veterinary care.