Seeking to safeguard employees and volunteers during the coronavirus pandemic, the Kanawha-Charleston Humane Association’s Animal Shelter staff spent Tuesday trying to connect the 73 dogs and cats in its care with people willing to foster the animals in their homes until the crisis passes.
The “Foster a Friend” event turned out to be a howling success.
Within a few hours of the 8 a.m. opening, all the shelter’s cats, kittens and puppies had been placed with foster caretakers. By noon, only 16 dogs, most of them above-average in size — 40 pounds and up — had yet to be placed.
Promoted on the shelter’s social media sites, the event allowed those interested in fostering animals to make appointments with the shelter’s staff or view the animals’ photos online.
Many of the visitors who arrived at the shelter Tuesday had a pet in mind. Those unfamiliar with the shelter’s wards were asked about the presence of other pets or small children, to find the right matches between pooches and people.
“We work to match fosters with pets that are best suited for their home situations,” said Holly Goheen, director of development for the humane association.
While the pets are placed in foster care with the understanding they will be brought back to the shelter when the crisis passes, “it would be a home run for us if people decide to adopt their foster pets and keep them at home,” Goheen said.
Melissa Reed of St. Albans said she and her husband are working from home, have a fenced-in yard and felt they could ease the shelter’s burden by fostering a dog.
“We kept seeing ads on the shelter’s Facebook page about fostering dogs, and we went online to see pictures of the dogs they had,” Reed said. The couple and their 9-year-old daughter decided to take a closer look at a medium-size dog named Oliver, and ended up driving home with him.
Among those driving home with a big dog was James Kennedy of St. Albans, who spent at least 30 minutes in an outdoor enclosure bonding with Kringle, a brown, brawny, 5-year-old mixed-breed with a past career as a junkyard watchdog. At first, Kringle appeared more interested in other dogs being led past the enclosure by their new foster caregivers, or barking in apparent appreciation of the day’s festive atmosphere.
But, eventually, Kringle began paying attention to Kennedy, nudging and nuzzling the man, occasionally throwing a playful roughhouse move between speedy retrievals of a Kennedy-thrown tennis ball.
When a shelter staffer approached the enclosure and raised an inquisitive eyebrow, Kennedy nodded, “I’ll take him.”
A few minutes later, Kringle claimed the shotgun position in Kennedy’s pickup truck, sporting a toothy grin and an expanse of tongue through a partially open window.
“I’m working from home these days,” said Kennedy, a West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection employee, “so I’ll have plenty of time to keep an eye on him and our two female dogs.”
Kringle is likely to spend much of his time prowling the perimeter of Kennedy’s large, well-fenced yard, which overlooks the Coal River.
“I hope he can find the time to help me paint the kitchen cabinets, but we’ll see,” Kennedy said.
The goal of emptying the shelter of all dogs and cats was set to help staffers and volunteers stay at home and avoid coming in close contact with their colleagues. Dogs and cats are not known to carry or spread the coronavirus.
With four hours remaining until the event’s 8 p.m. closing time, all but five of the shelter’s dogs had gone home with foster families.
Shelter staffers said they would keep the dogs that did not connect with foster families. A small crew will remain on staff to care for those animals or process emergency intakes, such as dogs or cats belonging to someone requiring hospitalization.
Humane officers in Kanawha County will not be rounding up stray pets, except when injuries are involved, until the coronavirus pandemic ends.