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County animal shelter moving animals to foster homes during pandemic

By Natalie Anderson
natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the Rowan County Animal Shelter has begun its own unofficial fostering program, allowing locals to keep dogs temporarily and free up shelter space.

Fortunately, the shelter has seen fewer animals coming in, and only a dozen animals are currently being sheltered, according to the county’s animal services director Bob Pendergrass.

Pendergrass said the shelter prepared itself to operate with a smaller staff. It has temporarily suspended its volunteer program and its partnership with the county to use inmates as its cleaning crew. But despite losing “a lot of help,” the staff is able to handle the needs of the animals currently sheltered.

Additionally, the shelter is mandating that adoptions and surrender of stray animals be conducted by appointment only in an effort to limit travel to the shelter. And if individuals call about turning over their animals to the shelter, Pendergrass said staff talks to pet owners about potential alternative options. For example, he said, the Humane Society of Rowan County is offering food to animals if pet owners need the help during the coronavirus pandemic.

Pendergrass said the animal services department is still taking calls for animal bites or any incidents that can pose a threat to public safety and health. Some of the animals are being quarantined as needed.

And the shelter is “doing its best” to adhere to its goal of not euthanizing any of its animals. The shelter hasn’t euthanized a dog in 4-5 years, and a cat in more than two years, he said.

“I think we can continue,” Pendergrass said, adding that “you don’t know what’s around the corner” in the animal shelter business.

Some other animal organizations have launched programs to help shelters and pet owners across the nation.

On March 23, the ASPCA launched a $5 million relief and recovery initiative to support animal welfare organizations and pet parents impacted by the coronavirus. Asheville is among the four cities where food distribution centers are being set up. The support comes from Petco Foundation, PetSmart Charities and Blue Buffalo, according to a news release.

Additionally, Chewy.com is stepping in to help, as it has partnered with greatergood.org to donate $1.7 million worth of pet food, products and supplies for animal shelters over the last 30 days, said spokesperson Joanna Hess.

Hess also said Chewy has experienced an increase in demand for its products during this time, though she was unable to provide additional details on how big the demand has been.

The fostering agreement with the county shelter is still new, Pendergrass said, which is why the duration for individuals fostering animals during this time has been open-ended. He added that the animals just have to stay within the county in order for the department to have authority over the animals when needed.

Pendergrass said individuals interested in fostering the sheltered animals can contact the shelter at 704-216-7768.

Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at (704) 797-4246.

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