Once it became apparent in mid-March that the Covid-19 pandemic would have a significant impact on the Auburn community, the Lee County Humane Society sprang into action, adjusting how it handles intakes and adoptions and also pushing to get as many animals at the shelter as possible into foster homes.
And the Auburn community responded.
"That's when we kind of jumped into action, and as of (Monday) we had more than 70 percent of our shelter population in foster homes," said Bailey Ray, foster coordinator for LCHS. "The community has stepped up in the biggest way for our pets here at LCHS."
The shelter saw a big response from Auburn University students, some of whom stayed in the community and are stuck at home studying remotely.
"We've had a lot of students reach out since they're at home more often," said Ray. "It's really helpful for them to have something to do while they're not having class time.
"Lots of families, too. I know just people working from home, even with small kids, they've been able to come up and meet a dog that they may not have come to meet had this not happened. They reached out just for this specific opportunity, and now we're getting to learn more about how the dogs are doing in their homes, and that's just going to make them more adoptable in the future."
LCHS has instituted a number of changes in response to the Covid-19 outbreak, shifting to an appointment-only model, cutting back on the number of adoptions and pushing the adoption process online as much as possible.
"We're asking people to make an appointment via email or phone," said Ray. "And once we get that appointment set up with them, we're trying to have as little contact as possible. There's no proof that it's being spread through pets. Just handing off a pet is really not going to give you Covid-19 or anything like that. But we're still just keeping our distance and we have everyone call when they arrive so a staff member can come out to meet them rather than them coming into the building."
You can contact LCHS by phone at 334-821-3222 or email, for fostering purposes, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
LCHS is still accepting strays, but by appointment only as well.
"We're encouraging everyone to post on social media, to get the word out through fliers, that if they do take in a stray pet, even if it doesn't come to LCHS, we still want to help them find to its home," said Ray.
Ray also mentioned the Facebook page of Opelika-Auburn Lost and Found Pets as a good resource that they work with in the community.
LCHS has been closed this week as staff deep cleans the facility. The shelter will reopen today.
"We've taken a lot of our kennels out of the building into the parking lot. We've been ale to spray them down and do things that would not have been possible," she said. "Right now since it is still very up in the air, we are just asking for foster homes (to keep pets) as long as people are feasibly able to hang on to them. We are still working with a lot of our rescue partners out of state to see if they have any availability in their foster homes to pull some of our pets, which would just make us even more able to help out with strays in the community."
Residents can apply and sign up to foster a pet at www.leecountyhumane.org. Ray said the parameters of being able to foster a pet is very open-ended at this point.
"Just as long as people are able to foster, we're just encouraging them and trying to help them as much as we can with food and toys and medical and anything like that," she said.