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Pets in the Pandemic

The humane society adapts under pressure.

by Anita LeBlanc

From the May, 2020 issue

Like many nonprofits, the Humane Society of Huron Valley took a financial hit when Michigan shut down. CEO Tanya Hilgendorf says the shelter gets about 40 percent of its income from its programs, events, and activities that are now on hold. With so many people suffering financially and nervous about the future, donations also are down--though HSHV reinvented its largest fundraiser, Walk and Wag, as a virtual event (See Events, May 16).

To stay solvent, they've furloughed twenty-seven of their 108 staff members and suspended the Love Train program, which rescues animals from shelters with high euthanasia rates. But while nonessential exams and sterilizations are at a standstill, curbside appointments remain available at its veterinary clinic, along with telemedicine appointments for pets whose owners have been exposed to the virus or at high risk from it.

With the reduced staff observing social distancing rules, and without the volunteers who collectively do the work of about sixty full-time employees, adoptions are proceeding more slowly now, but Hilgendorf says people have been "very patient."

Paradoxically, "this is a great time to adopt," she says, "because families are at home and have time on their hands for good acclimation and training." HSHV has also added a "private adoption" page to its website, Though they don't take responsibility for the postings, it's a place where individuals seeking to place or adopt a pet can connect directly.

The shelter's Emergency Harbor program takes in pets whose owners who are sick, hospitalized, or lack stable housing. In early April, Hilgendorf emailed, they were caring for the "super, sweet pup of a couple who are both in the hospital for Covid-19." The animals "typically stay in our shelter," but more than 250 people have completed foster training online, and plenty of homes are available if needed.

Hilgendorf was encouraged early last month when a longtime HSHV supporter pledged $75,000 for a matching gift campaign in response to the Covid crisis. "HSHV has been here since 1896," she says. "As long as we're still standing, we'll be here to take care of the animals who need us most."     (end of article)

[Originally published in May, 2020.]


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