Pensacola Humane's Help Team saves lives amid pandemic

Pensacola staff pose with animalsCourtesy of Pensacola Humane Society

COVID-19 drastically changed how animal shelters operated around the country. As state stay-home mandates went into effect many shelters, Pensacola Humane Society included, scrambled to figure out how to keep animals safe and cared for while maneuvering the ever-changing rules and regulations that the global pandemic brought. One of the positive things to come out of it all was the way it brought together animal shelters around the nation with regular zoom calls keeping people in the loop, offering advice and being a sounding board as we all tried to make the best decisions. Another positive that came out of all the changes caused by COVID-19 was the forming of our Help Team. The Help Team was created to offer support, advice and help to the community of Pensacola by way of phone calls and emails, regularly communicating with the community remotely. 

The Pensacola Humane Society Help Team has a staff of 4; 2 full time team members, and 2 part time team members all of whom were repurposed from existing positions thanks to moving to a more foster-centric model of sheltering. Our Help Team specialists interact with every person who contacts the shelter looking to surrender or rehome an animal, needing behavioral resources, or looking for TNR/Spay and Neuter resources. Since May 14, 2020, the Help Team has worked with 641 families regarding 1,641 animals. 1,097 of those animals were able to either be kept in the home or rehomed by the family, 43 were confirmed to have been taken to the local municipal shelter and 43 were referred to another rescue better suited to their needs. 126 of those animals were cats who went through our TNR program, 175 had “other” outcomes (needed spay or neuter, veterinary recommendation, housing options, etc.)  Only 168 animals have been taken into our care. These statistics are amazing because PHS does not have the capacity for the number of animals that need our help daily. With the creation of the Help Team, we can keep pets and their people together, re-home their current pet without the animal going into the shelter or offer advice to those who just need someone to listen. This results in many more animals being saved. The intake diversion rate hovers around 85% Based on the data of our first 3 months in operation, the program received a $25,000 grant to help supplement TNR, Spay and Neuter, pet deposits and rent, temporary boarding due to eviction or Domestic Violence, and all of the other resources we currently offer. 

Our foster team kicked it into high gear when COVID-19 hit. The team was able to get every remaining adoptable animal under our care into foster homes. The foster team has focused on building our foster base and offering extensive training opportunities and innovative foster “hacks” along with varying lengths of fostering to meet the different lifestyles of our foster families. Our foster team is working hard to find foster homes for every cat and dog that comes into our organization. Keeping a cat or dog out of a kennel and having the animal’s transition directly upon intake to a foster home has a significant impact on the animal’s physical, mental, and emotional health. The animal is less stressed in a foster home along with other benefits such as one-on-one training and attention from their foster family, socialization with other dogs and cats and children and more. The foster families fill out surveys on their animal to send back to the foster team so that the team knows what the behavior is like and how the animal is doing.  This valuable information helps them to spread the word and to get the animal adopted! The team streamlined the foster program with the use of Trello and Calendly. The Trello board is a great tool.  Fosters and the public can see the board which showcases animals in need of foster care. Calendly is an easy and effective scheduling program for fosters to make appointments to pick up animals, drop off animals, and come in for check-ups. 

The number of animals in foster in August were 78 total, 49 cats and 29 dogs. That helped to free space in the shelter to take in more animals! There were 57 active foster families in August and 29 new foster families. Recently PHS was able to take in a blind cat because we had a foster family lined up who was able to care for a special needs cat. The cat was adopted a little over a month later! July 14th PHS received a plea from a shelter that asked if we could take animals as they were running out of space and did not want to euthanize any because of not having any more room. We were able to take 9 dogs from this shelter and they were all sent straight into foster care. 

Without the Help team, Foster Team, an amazing volunteer team and team of employees, our ability to help would be much more limited. We are so thankful to everyone who work tirelessly to help animals and our community in the best way possible!

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Pictured above are members of the Animal Care Staff, Help Team, Director of Animal Care and Volunteer Coordinator. 

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