Coronavirus creates new challenges for animal shelters, rescues in connecting pets with permanent homes

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Hundreds of animals in the Cedar Rapids area are up for adoption and looking for permanent homes.

Artie the dog poses for a photo at the Cedar Valley Humane Society in Cedar Rapids on March 22, 2020. (MARY GREEN/KCRG)

While connecting pets with new families that are a good fit for both can be a challenge under normal circumstances, it’s become even tougher because of the spread of the coronavirus.

“We still want to be able to maintain what we’re doing, adopting animals out and making sure that they find a great home for them, but we have to be responsible to the public at the same time,” said Jennifer Lane, marketing and development director of the Cedar Valley Humane Society in Cedar Rapids.

Starting last week, the shelter is closed to foot traffic and open by appointment only. People who are interested in meeting an animal must fill out an adoption application first and know which animal they want to see instead of simply walking in, as they could do before.

Lane said making appointments will help the Cedar Valley Humane Society limit the number of volunteers and visitors in the shelter at a time, to help prevent the spread of the virus.

However, Lane acknowledged that also creates more of a challenge in connecting potential new owners with animals.

“When they don’t come in on a daily basis, it is a little more difficult for us,” she said.

As a result, the shelter is relying more on its website and social media accounts to get the word out about its animals up for adoption.

“We want to make sure that we’re responsible to the public, but we still have to be able to maintain being able to take care of the animals,” Lane said.

At Last Hope Animal Rescue in Cedar Rapids, volunteers said not as much has changed for their operations because of coronavirus precautions, as the rescue is normally only open to the public by appointment, and only a small portion of their animals stay at the rescue’s adoption center.

“Lots of our dogs and cats live in foster homes, so just communicating with our fosters to let them know, ‘We’re here for you,’ and continuing to care for our animals that live at our adoption center has been our primary goal too,” Last Hope’s development director, Amanda Rushton, said.

But the coronavirus has still affected part of Last Hope’s adoption efforts.

“We do adoption events, primarily on the weekend. We’ll do open houses for our cats, and we have canceled those for the short-term future,” Rushton said.

Both Last Hope and Cedar Valley Humane Society said the need for donations, especially food, hasn’t changed.

“Even with less volunteers here, we still have the same number of animals,” Rushton said.

For people who want to help, but are stuck at home, Lane said making toys for the animals is a great way to pass the time.

“Our animals really appreciate that, especially with the lack of traffic coming in here right now,” Lane said. “It gives them something interactive to do until people are able to come back in.”

The Cedar Valley Humane Society, located at 7411 Mt Vernon Road SE in Cedar Rapids, is currently open by appointment only, Monday through Saturday from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. Visitors can make an appointment by calling 319-362-6288.

Last Hope Animal Rescue, located at 1823 16th Avenue SW in Cedar Rapids, is open by appointment only by filling out an adoption application.