While some shelters around the nation are closing their doors and refusing to accept stray animals or owner surrenders, the Humane Society of Otter Tail County (HSOTC) is continuing to stay open for business — but business only and by appointment only. “We are open, we’re deciding day to day, but we’re open right now to our business that includes adoptions, stray reclaims, strays being brought in, but we’re closed to just casual visitors,” says shelter manager Jaclyn Keenan.
The shelter is following CDC recommendations for handwashing and disinfecting doors and handles, as well as enforcing safe distances when handling transactions. “We’re trying to really push for phone calls for interviews, when they’re asking for information about pets, asking them to apply online and become preapproved before coming to our building to decide on a pet or meet a pet,” she says. They’re also discouraging families who like to visit casually with their kids to stay at home.
HSOTC is a part of emergency management for the county, so they are preparing in case of a sudden rise in hospitalizations. “The city has been in contact with us just in case there is a high number of people hospitalized, as animals are being left behind in their homes and we have to enact our shelter as an emergency shelter for those animals,” Keenan says. “We’re encouraging people to plan ahead, make sure you have a plan for your pets. If you become hospitalized, you have someone that can stop over and feed them, have enough food and water. If, for some reason, they need to be temporarily boarded, make sure you have a plan for that, their vaccinations, make sure you have collars and IDs on them. Just plan ahead like you would for any other natural disaster.”
The shelter is asking people to call ahead to handle as much business as possible over the phone, whether you’re dropping off or picking up. More information can be found on the HSOTC Facebook page. With an anticipated need for more dog and cat food, they’re asking for donations and have set up bins outside the doors for people to drop donations off in.
Keenan says she has not seen an increase in animal drop-offs during the pandemic. “I don’t feel that we have an increase in drop-offs. We are going to try our best to do what we can for families that may be in need. With times going to be getting tough with financials, that type of thing, we may end up being able to offer some type of food support and we just want to encourage people to plan ahead,” she says.
It’s important to note that there’s no evidence that companion animals like dogs and cats can transmit or spread COVID-19 and the CDC has not received any reports of pets becoming sick with COVID-19. That being said, if you are sick with COVID-19, the CDC recommended limiting your contact with pets like you would around other people. “Although there have not been reports of pets or other animals becoming sick with COVID-19, it is still recommended that people sick with COVID-19 limit contact with animals until more information is known about the virus. This can help ensure both you and your animals stay healthy,” their website says.