MONONGAH — The Marion County Humane Society closed its doors to the public in March when the coronavirus stay-at-home order was issued and designated only a few staff members care for the animals during the closure.
While the pandemic stopped the Humane Society’s operations, it did not stop the flow of animals that need homes throughout Marion County, which ultimately led to the shelter reopening earlier than expected.
“We realized very quickly, we can’t stay shut down,” said Frankie Spatafore, shelter manager of the Marion County Humane Society. “We didn’t know anything. We didn’t know if we would be back here the next day, we didn’t know if we could open up at any point, so we just tried to do as much as we could to make the daily life at the shelter as easy as possible that was also limiting intake from the public. Like I said, we can’t stop, we have to remain active.”
The Marion County Humane Society is now allowing adoptions and intake to take place again, but not without a number of new policies that help to limit the spread of germs at the facility. Spatafore said online adoption applications help limit the spread of any germs.
“The people that are coming in, they have to actually apply beforehand,” Spatafore said. “We keep everybody posted on our Facebook page, website, Pet Finder, so if someone is interested in adopting an animal, they go on there, see what we have and if they find someone they like, they have to inquire through our email address.”
According to Spatafore, volunteers and staff members sheltered some of the animals at their homes at the beginning of the pandemic, so there would be fewer animals inside the facility to care for. She said the staff have made decisions about the Humane Society based on the precautions and operations now in pace at other businesses and facilities.
“We kind of just had to watch the guidelines; we paid attention a lot to how other businesses were doing things along with other shelters, and we decided to open solely by appointment,” Spatafore said. “By doing things only by appointment, we were able to control how many people were coming in and out of our facility every day, how many people were here at a time, and we were also able to control how much staff we have here.”
In the past, people could drop into the Humane Society at any time during business hours to visit the animals and potentially take one home on the same day. Now, these adopters have to make an appointment to visit the Humane Society, and its staff takes precautions to make sure there is low risk of the transmission of germs.
“Anytime someone comes in, we are masked up, ready to go, six feet apart and everything,” Spatafore said. “And then after they leave, we go through, we disinfect everything, we only have one ink pen and one clipboard out and we sanitize that every time.”
The new protocols have helped to cut down on the number of animals in the shelter, because the staff knows how many animals will likely be adopted each week, Spatafore said.
“On the bright side, we’re actually really low on animals right now,” Spatafore said. “We are really lucky that we weren’t ever during the pandemic so far, we were never jam-packed with dogs. We have actually been able to keep it a very consistently low amount of dogs.”
The Humane Society also started an animal food pantry to aid pet-owners who were having financial troubles. This has helped people keep their dogs in their homes, even if unemployment meant they could not afford pet food.
“We have an active food pantry for animals,” Spatafore said. “Fill out this application, show us the proof that you’re unemployed right now, we will give you some food.”
Spatafore said the Humane Society will be operating under these new policies for the foreseeable future, and will keep the public updated through its Facebook page.
“We’re just going day by day, trying to keep up on what conditions we are working through,” Spatafore said. “We have definitely had to alter a lot when it came to taking in animals to scheduling staff. Everything is just for now, we don’t know where we’re going to be.”