One of the main concerns we have been hearing this week surrounding the COVID-19 Pandemic is timing. No time is ideal, but on the precipice of puppy/kitten season, really?!? Consistent messaging from the leading experts on the subject of intake is Emergency Intake Only! The position statement from NACA on the issue has been endorsed by the University of Wisconsin-Madison Shelter Medicine Program, The Association for Animal Welfare Advancement, University of Florida- Shelter Medicine Program, The Humane Society of the United States, and many more. All that being said, what we continue to hear is, “What about the abandoned kittens?” First, are we 100% sure they are abandoned? Information that has been shared over the years continues to show us just how unlikely unweaned kittens are to be truly abandoned. Whenever possible, kittens should be left to the care of their mothers. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Animal Care & Control in North Carolina put together a video on this issue, which is easily shared via social media with your communities. If kittens do enter the system, get them out as quickly as possible. The University of Wisconsin-Madison Shelter Medicine Program, in conjunction with the UC Davis Koret Shelter Medicine Program, has put together a fantastic sheet of recommendations on the intake of kittens during COVID-19. These recommendations will aid in animal services departments balancing human and animal health and safety. Our communities and volunteers are fantastic supporters of the work we do every day, during this time of crisis we must engage them in pushing out the “Don’t Kit-Nap” or “Leave them Be” messaging. Pasco County Animal Services in Pasco County, FL, has had tremendous success with their “Leave them Be” program, and I know their Assistant Director Spencer Conover is always happy to discuss their model. Another group doing fantastic work with community cat programming is the Humane Rescue Alliance; their Director of Regional Outreach (who also happens to be on the board of NACA), Alice Burton is a genuinely amazing person and a fantastic resource when it comes to moving cats and kittens out of your shelters as quickly as possible. The key messages surrounding cats and kittens during this pandemic are:
- Only bring them into your care if it is an absolute emergency, and you have exhausted all other options.
- If you do bring them in, especially the kittens requiring intensive care, get them back out as quickly as possible
- Our priority during this pandemic must be the health and safety of our human staff and citizens first, and one way we can aid in keeping our teams safe and healthy is by encouraging citizens to “Leave them Be”
- We understand and acknowledge the communities concern surrounding the potential for an increased number of kittens this season due to the suspension of SNR services. These concerns are shared by many, but our priority at this time must be on the health and safety of staff and citizens, a conscious effort will be made to make up for ground lost in the area of SNR once we return to normal operations.