I was wondering if it is a myth that there was a COVID-19 effect of open kennels at animal shelters due to increased demand. So, I called the Connecticut Humane Society and spoke to Susan Wollschlager, the marketing and communications manager. She was lovely, very informative, and a true animal lover. Since we live in the Granby bubble, I have never visited any of the three society locations. I had, of course, heard of the Fox Memorial Clinic in Newington where they provide excellent veterinary care for the shelter animals but was not aware of the two other locations in Waterford and Westport.
The answer to my question was “yes”—there was increased demand for pets during the pandemic. The real change at the animal shelters was that fostering increased as a safety measure to minimize volunteer contact in the buildings. The pet populations are now back to pre-pandemic levels in the humane society facilities and in the foster homes.
I never realized that foster care families are the true heroes and that they account for 50 percent of all the pet caregivers at CHS. When a pet is removed from the shelter and finds a shelter home, kennel space naturally opens up for a new pet in need. There are over 200 pets in foster homes associated with the CHS. There are always plenty of opportunities for fostering a variety of pets, from Great Danes to Guinea pigs. During kitten season there is demand for volunteers who will take a litter home and bottle feed the babies around the clock.
A significant amount of training is necessary to become a foster volunteer at CHS with an application process and a commitment of six months. There are some pets with medical and behavioral issues that can be a challenge. Not everyone is able to pill a cat or follow canine training regimens. For those who chose to become foster families, the rewards are awesome when the pet finds a new home.
A trip to the website cthumane.org gives a great deal of information for other volunteer opportunities at CHS. There are hands-on duties like cleaning cages, helping with laundry, playing with pets, maintaining the walking trails, and helping to take photos. CHS has fun events such as food drives and fundraising get-togethers.
The website describes the adoption process, especially with the changes due to COVID-19. It is also a great resource for potential volunteers. There is no government funding and all of the pet services and facilities are made possible by donations. The mission of CHS is to try to “place safe, healthy companion animals in responsible, loving homes.” Can’t beat that for a great Connecticut institution.