Animal shelters adopt new virtual approach

MADISON COSKERIE

The coronavirus pandemic has forced Queensland animal shelters to adapt to social distancing regulations by cancelling or amending fundraising events and shifting animal adoption procedures online.

Bull Arab foster dogs

Allison Casey’s foster dogs, Bull Arab sisters Emmie and Rory, are living their best life in Allison’s home, until they find a loving family of their own. Photo: Courtesy Allison Casey

 

The RSPCA Queensland receives less than four per cent funding from the government, so holds multiple events each year to raise vital funds to support animal welfare and help fight animal cruelty.

The two major national RSPCA fundraisers are the Million Paws Walk and Cupcake Day, which are held in May and August respectively.

RSPCA Queensland spokesperson Michael Beatty said he believed despite the disruption to the organisation’s fundraising campaigns due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the community could still come together to help the charity’s cause.

“It looks as though Cupcake Day may not take place this year, but we’re hopeful some workplaces, community groups and schools will still take part in fundraising since we can’t have the physical event,” Mr Beatty said.

“We also had to cancel Million Paws Walk, which is Australia’s biggest public dog walking event, but we encouraged people to continue fundraising,” he said.

This year, Million Paws Walk was redesigned as a virtual step counting event called Million Paws Walk: Walk This May, which enabled participants to walk their dogs around their neighbourhoods to raise money.

“Some people posted pictures or videos of themselves walking around suburban streets with their dogs,” Mr Beatty said.

Million Paws Walk: Walk This May also helped dog owners remain fit and healthy while isolating.

Cristina Goddard and her dog Ripley

Cristina Goddard and her dog Ripley took part in the RSPCA’s virtual step counting Million Paws Walk: Walk This May event in May. Photo: Courtesy Cristina Goddard

 

Cristina Goddard participated in the Walk This May event, and said the changes allowed her and her Great Dane Ripley to partake for the first time.

“My dog is big and excitable and takes a lot of control, so I wouldn’t have ever taken her to an event with a lot of other dogs,” Ms Goddard said.

“The only reason we were able to take part in Million Paws Walk [this year] is because we could do it solo and on our own schedule,” she said.

“Walk This May was absolutely a good introduction to lockdown,” Ms Goddard said.

“It gave us a reason to get out and get some fresh air and exercise every day.

“It also helped us develop a good routine and gave us something positive to focus on.

“We still walk every day now.”

Walk This May raised almost $770,000 for animals in need through the efforts of more than 11,000 fundraisers.

Coronavirus and strict social distancing restrictions have also pushed Queensland animal shelters to alter their animal adoption processes this year.

Mr Beatty said physical adoptions at the RSPCA had to be completely shut down during lockdown, and said they were now continuing via an online process.

“We have virtual adoptions now as opposed to people coming around the shelters and looking at animals, and it’s proved to be very successful,” he said.

“Animals have become a part of people’s lives, who before now perhaps hadn’t thought very deeply about getting an animal.

RSPCA rescue dog Inky

RSPCA rescue dog Inky found a forever home though the organisation’s new virtual adoption process. Photo: Courtesy Annie-Lenore Hanman

 

Mr Beatty said the number of animals being fostered from RSPCA shelters had also increased since the pandemic began.

“We also had an increase in foster carers, so that was encouraging, and we like to think the animals have definitely helped people during the pandemic,” he said.

“Animals can be a huge benefit in times of stress.”

Annie-Lenore Hanman adopted her Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Inky, from the RSPCA in May during lockdown.

Ms Hanman, who had previously adopted an RSPCA dog in 2014, said the adoption process was a completely different experience during the pandemic.

“This time around, we had to put a lot more thought into choosing which dog we wanted to apply for since it was all online, and it was really hard reading all their stories and wanting to save them all,” she said.

“With our first adoption, our dog, Giselle, really did choose us when we went to look at the dogs in the shelter, but just via the Internet this time it was so difficult to decide when all the dogs deserved love and a home.”

“There was no meet and greet with Inky until the day we picked her up, but from the moment she waddled in to meet us at the RSPCA she’d stolen our hearts,” Ms Hanman said.

“Inky has brought back the constant laughs and joy that comes with owning a dog, especially a rescue.”

Ms Hanman said Inky had quickly settled into her new life in a loving home.

Adoption dog at animal shelter

Animal adoptions are now conducted online as Queensland animal shelters navigate COVID-safe social distancing regulations. Photo: Madison Coskerie

 

Allison Casey is a member of the CQ Animal Army, a Central Queensland-based animal shelter committed to finding forever homes for homeless animals.

Ms Casey said CQ Animal Army experienced a variety of changes due to the coronavirus pandemic that had significantly impacted the adoption process.

“All of our paperwork has been online and payments are now via bank transfer,” she said.

“Our meet and greets can’t be done online so have to happen in people’s homes now instead of in public places like the dog park.

“It’s made it a bit tricky to have a potential forever family meet a dog in their home where there are commonly two or three other dogs demanding attention, as well as the fact that the dogs behave differently in a big group,” Ms Casey said.

“The other thing that was hard was when there was an interstate travel ban, because sometimes CQ Animal Army adopt a dog out to a family from another state and that was difficult and often impossible when those restrictions were in place.”

Ms Casey said she also took on the role of animal foster carer during lockdown.

“It feels so good to foster knowing you’re giving animals a chance to find a happy home instead of being dumped or put down,” she said.

“I’ve found animals are so helpful with improving my happiness and mental health, and the more animals the better.

“I think that’s how I ended up taking on fosters, I can’t pass on an animal in need if I’m able to help them.”

For more information on animal adoption visit the RSPCA website or go online to find a shelter near you.

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