Below, listen to a version of this story that aired on WUFT-FM.
Alachua County Animal Services is the only animal shelter in the county that is still fully functional and taking in stray animals. Ed Williams, Animal Services Director, said that although they’re still taking in strays, the shelter isn’t overwhelmed.
“I would say the shelter is running at about 50-60% capacity right now, which is great.”
According to Williams, there are currently nine cats and 59 dogs at the shelter and eight cats and 72 dogs in foster care.
“We actually have more animals in foster care than we have here at the shelter, which I think is probably the first time that I know of that has ever happened.”
Williams thinks the silver lining in this pandemic is that people are spending more time at home, which has allowed them to be able to foster or adopt animals.
“We’ve seen a lot of people really step up and agree to foster animals for us. It’s sort of our secret hope that, you know, people will fall in love and they’ll keep them.”
Williams has waived adoption fees and is providing families all the supplies they’d need to foster an animal. He also encourages pet owners to listen to webinars that suggest they have a three-step back up plan in place for their animals to be taken care of in the event they fall ill.
“You sort of have a primary plan if you get ill and you have to self-quarantine. Part two is if you then had to be hospitalized that you have a place for your pets to go or someone who can come into your home and take care of them on a regular basis, and part three would be that you have even a back-up plan for that.”
According to Williams, the shelter is prepared to retrieve animals from a home where the owner went to the hospital due to Coronavirus.
“Then we are to put on full PPE and take those animals in and we are to quarantine those animals for 14 days here at the shelter – only reclaiming them to that owner or to a close family member.”
The shelter is also not accepting any surrenders unless it’s an emergency. Williams said not being able to afford pet food shouldn’t be a reason to surrender an animal and the Humane Society of North Central Florida is one place where pet owners can be helped.
“There are a lot of non-profits in Alachua County who are able to provide free pet food to people who have been unusually affected by COVID, like someone’s lost their job or something like that.”
Even though these are uncertain times, Williams’ top priority is still the health and safety of animals.
“We’re still doing the business of animal services and we’re still serving the community and taking care of the animals, we’re just having to operate a little different than we would under normal circumstances.”
Williams is now scheduling appointments for reclaims, fostering and adoptions.