Alameda County animal shelters revise operations amid COVID-19 pandemic

Berkeley Humane
Gisselle Reyes/Staff
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, some animal shelters in Alameda County, including Berkeley Animal Care Services and Friends of the Alameda County Animal Shelter, have had to revise their operations. In addition to becoming more foster-based, both animal shelters have been experiencing a decrease in animal intakes.

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Some Alameda County animal shelters have had to revise operations amid the COVID-19 pandemic but are working to provide people and pets with necessary services.

Berkeley Animal Care Services, or BACS, is offering full service to people who knock on their door or call beforehand, according to Amelia Funghi, BACS manager. Friends of the Alameda Animal Shelter, or FAAS, has been closed to the public but is operating over email and phone with electronic adoptions, according to John Lipp, FAAS executive director.

Both animal shelters have also become more foster-based in the wake of the pandemic, attempting to get as many animals as possible into foster homes rather than keeping them in the shelters.

“We set up a plan to try to move all of our animals into foster homes, and then all of the sudden, the shelter in place happened even quicker than we thought it would happen, and so we had to move about 70 animals into foster homes over two days,” Lipp said. “It was exhausting, but the community really responded. Volunteers responded and everybody knew it was the right thing to do.”

Electronic adoptions at FAAS are currently taking place by people researching adoptable animals on the FAAS website, filling out an electronic adoption form, engaging in an initial screening and, finally, meeting their animal for the first time outside in the parking lot, according to Lipp. After a foster period of eight to 10 days, during which people can bring their animal home, the adoption can be finalized.

Both animal shelters have experienced a decrease in the intake of animals during the pandemic. From July through September 2019, FAAS had 125 dogs in the shelter system, and that number has fallen to 50 when compared to the same months of this year, according to Lipp.

Similarly, BACS’ intake numbers have decreased by 50% from last year, Funghi said. While intake is down dramatically at both shelters, Funghi is predicting a rise in the amount of incoming animals in the near future.

Funghi added that the predicted increase in intake is due to a potential rise in evictions across the nation, as people who lose their housing will likely not be able to care for and afford their pets. There is an ongoing national conversation between shelters to build a plan for taking care of animals amid the potential rise in evictions, Funghi said.

Both animal shelters are considering donating pet food gift cards or working with food pantries in Alameda County to make pet food available for those who need it.

“We’re working on how to stave off what we anticipate is going to be an increase in intake because of evictions, as people are not working and don’t have an income,” Funghi said. “We’re looking at ways that we can maybe help keep people and pets together.”

Contact Cameron Rebosio at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @cameron_rebosio .