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Humane Society Urges People To Plan For Care Of Pets During Pandemic

Dakin Humane Society

Several years ago, the Dakin Humane Society in western Massachusetts created a program to provide temporary shelter for pets belonging to people who were experiencing a crisis that forced them to leave their homes.

Now, Dakin is using the program to help the pets of people who are suddenly hospitalized with COVID-19.

WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill spoke with Dakin Executive Director Carmine DiCenso.

We have had for many years a program that would be able to, you know, provide a limited number of spaces for temporary foster… To reunite an animal with their owner in times of hardship, whether that be hospit-, you know, hospitalization, fleeing domestic violence, house fires, things like that. So we do have a program in place. So when, you know, everything with COVID-19 was really starting to pick up in our area. We did anticipate that this is a program that might need, uh, more attention. We figured, you know, that there might be an increase in requests for, um, for this kind of a program.

Have you taken in any animals so far?

We have. We've taken in six animals from households that did have someone that was positive for COVID-19.

And I understand and one of those instances the person passed away and- and now their pet has been adopted. Correct?

Yes, yeah, so the you know, the original intention was to reunite that person and-with their dog. But very sadly that person did pass away. And the- his dog was put up for adoption and has found a home, which is, I'm sure comforting in some way. You know, again, the ultimate outcome would have had them together, but it's just a really sad situation.

How does this program work? People can contact the Humane Society and say, “I need you to temporarily take my dog or cat or bird or whatever”, or does a family member do it? How does it work?

Yeah, so that's a great question. I think the first thing I would say is that it is an absolute last resort safety net. Because we have, uh you know, obviously very limited, into how many animals we can take in. So we certainly don't want the message to be that like, “Oh, they can take my animal if needed”. We certainly can in those emergency situations. But more importantly, we want to get the message out there that people should put a safety plan in place for their animal. Make sure that they have, you know, a few weeks of food on hand in their home, they have clear instructions to who their veterinarian is, and who to care for and reach out proactively to neighbors, friends, family, that would be able to, you know, really quickly act, if someone were to be hospitalized, they could go in care for the animal in their home. Because the best case scenario for the animal is going to be for them to stay where they are, you know, it can be frightening coming to a shelter, you know, if they can stay in the home, they are where they're comfortable, that's always the best case. So really want to get that message out there. But again, you know, they can be that safety net under that if all other things fail in someone's safety plan.

And, so people should be obviously planning for that now, because we never know what tomorrow is going to hold, as they say.

Yeah, I think, you know, it's probably really front of mind with people now because of what we're all going through. But this is something you know, literally could happen anytime and you know, you can't plan for an emergency situation. So just again, it's really easy to get- to have some written instructions about your animals care, who their veterinarian a veterinarian is who caretakers would be, you know, that's even in the case. If you do live alone and EMTs or the analysts were to come to your house and have to take you out of the home, if they were like clear instructions on a fridge somewhere saying, you know, ”My dog is cared for by x” and a number. So at least those emergency responders would know who they can contact, or whoever's in that home knows. And again, that just keep that, you know, you can make that in an afternoon you know, write those instructions up, talk to people have it there. In this way if something were to happen, that there's way people respond and I also want to stress it really important time for animals to have collars and tags with your identification because it's really easy for animals to slip out the door when something like that is happening if they were to get loose the best way for them, for anyone in a shelter- animal control officer to know where that animal should go is that identification.

How has Dakin been impacted by the pandemic?

We've had some, you know, severe to minor adjustments that need to be made and the way we operate. So, we are completely closed-close to the public. We, you know, don't want to encourage people coming in groups and being here. So that- you cannot enter our building right now. With that said, we are here though, to take in emergency surrenders. People do have situations where they have animals that need to come into our shelter, to be part of the adoption program. So that service is open. We are doing some limited adoptions. They are no-contact options. So, we're actually doing the counseling by phone. People are looking at videos of the animals talking to our adoption counselors by phone, and then they can come to the shelter stay outside and we actually will do curbside delivery. Uh, another thing that we're doing a lot of is, we have a pet food aid program. And again, this is another program we anticipated would need to be boosted up because we figured the need for that program. So again, we do that through a system of no-contact. People can pull up to the building and we will bring food out to them. Because, you know, we, we realize that these programs are essential and needed. So we can't close completely but we are, you know, certainly operating on a much lower capacity. Our spay /neuter clinic is completely- that is 100% closed at this point. And that's in an effort to keep, again, social distancing and making sure that we're not having people travel that don't need to. And also save those critical supplies that the human health system needs that we would be using for those surgeries for spay/neuter.

Your locations in Springfield and Leverett are not open to the public. But if people do have concerns about animal welfare, they can reach you by phone or email or website. What's the best procedure?

Currently, we have everything condensed into the Springfield operation. So calling Springfield, or emailing Springfield is a way to get in touch with us. But you know, we have multiple avenues, you can message us on Facebook, you can go directly to the website for information and have a link to email, contact someone through that, or just call us directly. I think this is a time where animals it reminds us how important they are in our lives because they really do bring comfort. I think in a time like this when so much is unknown about our future. It's really nice to have your companion animal next to you who's not stressed and worried about the world ahead. And I think they can give us comfort. And you know, we really look at the work we're doing. Helping animals really does help people in this difficult time.


The record-setting tenure of Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno. The 2011 tornado and its recovery that remade the largest city in Western Massachusetts. The fallout from the deadly COVID outbreak at the Holyoke Soldiers Home. Those are just a few of the thousands and thousands of stories WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill has covered for WAMC in his nearly 17 years with the station.
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