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John Van Zante, of Rancho Coastal Humane Society in Encinitas, plays with a cat on March 20. The non-profit suspended its adoption services and reduced its staff due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo by Steve Puterski
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Local animal shelters feel the pinch, reduce services

REGION — Several rescue shelters have ceased all public-facing operations at locations across North County.

Rancho Coastal Humane Society in Encinitas shut most of its operations down and reduced its staff on March 20, although a select few employees will still care for the nearly 50 dogs, cats and rabbits, according to Judi Sanzo, chief executive officer of RCHS.

San Diego County’s shelters — in Carlsbad and Bonita — have closed their lobbies, according to Yvette Urrea Moe, a communications specialist for the county. Although the county’s facilities are not engaging with the public, staff is also in place to care for the animals and adoptions will be done by appointment only, she said.

However, the county’s Animal Services Department will remain servicing calls, although the department is adjusting its operations regarding fosters and adoptions, Moe said.

“They can call and make an appointment and it will be evaluated,” she said. “We’re just trying to protect the public and our employees.”

The San Diego Humane Society has also moved its adoption services to appointment only but has suspended its spay, neuter and vaccine services, along with its microchip clinics, according to their website. Licensing and fostering meanwhile, is available online.

A happy dog (and a very good boy) smiles for the camera on March 20 at the Rancho Coastal Humane Society in Encinitas. Photo by Steve Puterski

Additionally, the San Diego Humane Society will be distributing more than 70,000 pet food across San Diego County to pet owners who need a little extra support during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to KUSI.

RCHS, meanwhile, adopted out five animals on March 19, a day before they followed the county’s decision to restrict access to its shelters. The shelter also had to close its thrift store, which generates a significant portion of its funding, Sanzo said, along with the humane education program.

However, RCHS will continue to accept donations through its website as XX said towels, food and other necessities are still needed. The non-profit is also scheduled to receive 40,000 pounds of food this week, which will be distributed to other shelters in need. 

“We are finding ourselves with a shortfall,” Sanzo said. “We are feeling the crunch from other areas, not just fundraising activities internal to us.”

As for virus transmission, Sanzo and Moe said there is no evidence currently available to prove animals can transmit COVID-19. Both said the Centers for Disease Control, along with the American Veterinarian Medical Association, have both put out material stating as much, along with other practices for handling pets when in public.

Still, the CDC urges those with pets to wash their hands after handling animals, their food, waste and supplies. Also, the CDC recommends practicing good pet hygiene and regular visits to the vet.

At RCHS, Sanzo said the uncertain timeline is unfortunate for would-be adopters. Now, though, she said the organization is looking for individuals willing to foster pets.

“If you are not ready to adopt, we are looking for fosters and trying to grow that program,” she added. 

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