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Berkshire Humane Society Holding Pet Food Giveaway Friday

The Berkshire Humane Society logo, which depicts an intertwined dog and cat
Berkshire Humane Society

While the COVID-19 pandemic has forced the Berkshire Humane Society to halt most of its operations around the county, the animal shelter is still offering some services at its Pittsfield, Massachusetts headquarters. WAMC spoke with Executive Director John Perreault.

PERREAULT: For us, it was a mandatory shutdown, so our two resale clothing boutiques – Catwalks, one in Lenox, one in Great Barrington – have been closed. We closed our boarding and feline adoption center in Great Barrington known as Purradise, and we basically brought all of our services back into our main shelter here in Pittsfield at 214 Barker Road. We obviously had to stop our humane education programming, our family dog school, our dog training classes as well. We closed our building and we went to an appointment by only schedule. So if there was someone who was interested in adopting a dog, they fill out the application online, they would send it in, we would do a lot of adoption counseling verbally over the phone. And then from there, if we thought we had the right match, then we would bring them into a part of our building, that we keep them safe and the staff safe. And we're able to do some introductions. And over the first couple week’s period, we were closed, we did close to 50 adoptions, placing animals in homes. And we're also doing the same thing with our surrenders. So if anybody needs to surrender a pet during this time, they can call us up we can make an appointment to have that process done safely, again, for both the person and the staff members as well.

WAMC: Now, this Friday, you're doing a special event to get food for animals into the hands of folks who may be suffering financially during the crisis. Talk to me about this. What is it going to be like?

Since 1987, I believe, this shelter has had a pet food bank. It is for people in temporary need of pet food. And at this location alone, we have over 1,000 requests every single year. And we have those clients that come in on a regular basis, and they're still coming in. They're making their phone calls. When they arrive at the door, they phone call us, we asked them what they need, then we place it outside the door for them to pick up. But we've also asked for some donations like from Purina. And we've had a lot of generous people donate some food. So at the moment, we have an abundance of pet food. And we know that there are people out there, Josh, that have never gone through this and have always had a job or have never experienced financial difficulties and are now experiencing it. And we just want to let everybody know that you know what, if you're struggling to put food on your table right now and you have a pet at home, your pet is so important, especially during this time, that if we can just provide a little bit of food for family, keep that pet at home and out of our shelter, that's certainly what works. So we have a lot of food. So we thought we would do sort of a day where no questions asked, people just drive up and we'll have staff with proper PPE. And they will figure out what people need and we’ll load food into their car and they can drive away. So no one will be getting out of their car. We won't be going in anybody's car. We’ll be just hopefully pop your trunk and we'll put some food in there for you to help you out hopefully for them for the next few weeks.

As far as animal safety and the virus itself, what is the Humane Society's advice on whether or not like a dog or a cat can get or transmit the COVID-19 virus?

Well, you know what, from all we've all we've read, I think the biggest scare is that the pet serves as a fomite, which means that they can carry the virus on their coat on their skin. And then you have one person sneezing into their cat. They let their cat outside, it goes to the neighbor's house, the neighbor pets the cat and now the virus is transmitted from the cat to the person. So the individual animal itself cannot give it to you but they can serve as fomites. So for us here any animal the first thing we do when we get a new animal surrendered, and we don't know the background, the first thing we do is give it a bath, and then isolate it for a while to make sure that everything is okay.

Josh Landes has been WAMC's Berkshire Bureau Chief since February 2018, following stints at WBGO Newark and WFMU East Orange. A passionate advocate for Western Massachusetts, Landes was raised in Pittsfield and attended Hampshire College in Amherst, receiving his bachelor's in Ethnomusicology and Radio Production. His free time is spent with his cat Harry, experimental electronic music, and exploring the woods.
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