BENTON TOWNSHIP — With Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s shelter-in-place order keeping many people at home, animal rescue organizations are having to temporarily adjust the way they do business.
Berrien County Animal Control Director Tiffany Peterson said pet-owners should be reassured that there is no evidence that COVID-19 can be transmitted to or from animals, and people should keep their pets if possible.
“We understand that some senior citizens or unemployed people might not have enough money, and although our resources are low, we can probably come up with something to help,” she said. Peterson said people seeking help will be strictly screened so no one takes advantage of resources.
The shelter is closed to the public, but shelter employees are trying to find a way to facilitate adoptions online to limit the number of people going into the shelter. She said there has not been an influx of people surrendering their pets.
“The hard part is everybody is limited on resources and donations are low,” Peterson said. “People have time to devote to a new pet right now, but perhaps don’t have the resources to take care of one.”
A voicemail recording at the Humane Society of Southwestern Michigan says that to protect the public and shelter staff, the shelter is closed until further notice, and that adoptions are not being facilitated at this time. But, the recording says, essential staff members are still reporting to work to take care of the animals that are there. And donation bins are located outside the building for donations.
Rebecca Cooper, vice president of Animal Aid of Southwest Michigan, said the organization has had to change the way pet adoptions are completed. She said adoptions are actually up, since people are staying home and have time for a pet to settle in.
“But the problem is we’ve had to change some of our protocol. For example, we normally do a home visit before finalizing an adoption. We’re not doing those right now,” Cooper said. “But if a potential adopter comes to us with strong recommendations or references, we’ll connect them with a pet and finalize the adoption later.”
She said potential adopters cannot go to the foster homes of pets.
“It’s a whole new world for us,” she said. She said adoptable pets are posted on the organization’s website and someone will arrange to meet a potential adopter at an agreed-upon location, and strict precautions will be taken to complete a transfer.
Cooper said the problem is that some services, such as a mobile spay/neuter bus that normally comes to town every two weeks is not currently available. And resources are scarce.
“Our major problem right now is funds. We were scheduled to have a St. Patrick’s Day event, with the proceeds going to Animal Aid, and that was canceled,” she said. “We have gotten a couple of donations, but we’re in crisis mode. We’re also taking supplies to our foster homes as much as we can.”