COVID-19 has brought about unprecedented changes. Chief among them: staying home. For many, stay-at-home orders have brought about change in the shape of four legs and fur. Being home all the time makes things like housetraining more feasible. Why not get the pet we’ve been wanting if the entire family is home to chip in? Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, the Humane Society of Tampa Bay has remained up and running. I spoke with Sherry Silk, HSTB’s CEO, and she shared an inside view to the shelter and hospital, as well as tips for acclimating pets to the home.
While the bay area has seen many closures and cancellations, HSTB’s adoption, intake and volunteer programs have remained operational. “Our regular volunteers are still coming in,” Silk shares. “They’re walking the dogs and interacting with all of the animals.” Of course, modifications have been made in order to ensure everyone’s wellbeing. “We’re adhering to social distancing, asking people to stay in their car when possible, taking temperatures before anyone enters the building, and providing hand sanitizer.” While some of these measures extend the time that a process like adoption takes, people have proved supportive.
HSTB has utilized text-messaging services to communicate with patrons waiting in cars. Phone calls allow for communication between veterinarians inside of HSTB’s animal hospital and patients’ owners waiting outside. “It’s unnatural for us,” Silk says. “We hug our patrons—especially during things like humane euthanasia, which is still offered.” The CEO is proud of how HSTB has adapted to the pandemic context, but she is ready for a return to normalcy.
Naturally, animals’ health and safety anchor the HSTB’s decision-making process: “Our work is guided by the American Veterinary Medical Association’s recommendations.” It’s been shown that humans can transmit COVID-19 to animals. Coronavirus patients have contacted HSTB looking for guidance on how to best care for their pets. “We explain that they shouldn’t touch pets or change litter boxes.”
People getting rid of pets was HSTB’s main concern as the pandemic continued spreading. “While we have seen an uptick in adoptions, intake has also risen,” Silk notes. “We’re helping people, many from the service industry, make sure their pets are fed.”
As people from all industries find themselves sheltering in place, Silk has helpful tips for those introducing pets into the home. “Bonding is critical, the more the better.” Something true for all of us during this time. Silk says that emotional bonding, which takes 30 days to establish, is strengthened by getting out for walks with pets and learning each other’s habits. Once life does return to normal, new pets are more likely to be well adjusted if they’ve been made to feel calm in the home. “It’s key that pets be isolated if they are destructive,” adds Silk—who believes crate training is essential. She also cautions that pets may revert to maladaptive behaviors once life’s usual patterns resume.
Silk anxiously awaits an all clear so that HSTB can go back to business as usual.