How to Help Local Animal Shelters During the COVID-19 Outbreak | Community Notebook | Hudson Valley | Chronogram Magazine
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How to Help Local Animal Shelters During the COVID-19 Outbreak 

Last Updated: 03/27/2020 4:33 pm

For an animal shelter, a global pandemic is a lot like a hurricane. When people are thrown out of their normal routines, the cycle of pet adoptions and fostering is completely disrupted. Shelters suddenly become inundated with new pets they need to care for while being faced with a slow-down in adoptions.

With the outbreak of COVID-19, animal shelters like the Ulster County SPCA in Kingston are more in need of new adoptions and emergency foster homes than ever. “If you have been thinking about adopting, now is the time to do it,” says executive director Gina Carbonari.

Both the CDC and the WHO have said there is currently no evidence that companion animals can spread COVID-19, which means we can help our furry friends out when they need us the most. Whether you have space and resources for another pet or no, here are some ways you can help animals during the coronavirus outbreak.

Adopt a Pet

The Ulster County SPCA is currently closed to the public to protect the health of its staff, who are at the shelter seven days a week caring for the roughly 200 dogs, cats, guinea pigs, rabbits, and other animals who live there. “Most people don’t think about the shelter requiring people seven days a week,” Carbonari says. “There’s no working from home unless you’re taking those animals home, which just isn’t feasible.”

Luckily, you can complete most of the Ulster County SPCA’s adoption process online. Simply visit their website to view the animals they currently have in the shelter, download and complete the adoption application, and email your form to If your application is accepted, the shelter can provide you with a same-day adoption appointment to come meet the animal.

Foster a Pet

The Ulster County SPCA is also calling on their previously approved fosters to volunteer as on-call emergency fosters. In many cases, people on their on-call emergency foster list can help an animal be placed directly in their new home, avoiding the shelter entirely. If you’re a previously approved pet foster with the Ulster County SPCA, call the shelter at (845) 331-5377, email, or send them a private Facebook message.

You can also apply to become a new pet foster, which Carbonari says is especially helpful if you can plan on continuing to foster pets in the future. “We’re looking for anyone and everyone to open their home to an animal,” says Carbonari.

Create an Emergency Plan for Your Own Pet

Animal surrenders often happen when pet owners can no longer care for their pets, which is increasingly more likely as the COVID-19 continues to spread and hospitalize people. Carbonari says that it’s always a good idea to know where your pet would go if you become ill or can’t care for them in an emergency. Ask a friend or family member who is familiar with your animal if they would be willing to provide a home. Maybe you can do the same for them in exchange.

Donate Food

In addition to needing pet food to feed their own furry residents, shelters like the Ulster County SPCA also provide food to community members in need. You can donate pet food to their shelter right now by placing donations in the bins outside their location and staff will take care of the rest. If you’re in need of pet food supplies right now, call the Ulster County SPCA at (845) 331-5377 from 11:30am-3:30pm, and a member of their staff will come to assist you.

Other Ways to Help

If you aren’t in the position to foster or adopt a pet right now, there are still plenty of ways to help. Follow shelters on social media (like the Ulster County SPCA’s Facebook account) and share their updates. There might be someone in your network of friends who can help. Other area shelters that may need support are Dutchess County SPCA, the Columbia-Greene Humane Society/SPCA, and The Saugerties Animal Shelter.

“No matter what you’re doing to help the animals, you’re doing something,” Carbonari says. “And that’s what we need right now. Even just spreading the word about animals that need help or are up for adoption. We really appreciate it all.”

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