Tucson animal shelters have made several changes to their operations during the coronavirus pandemic. 

If you’re spending lots of time at home these days and thinking it’s the right time to welcome a new, cuddly four-legged friend to your family (permanently or temporarily), there’s some important things to know before you head out to the shelter to find a new isolation buddy. 

The day-to-day operations at Tucson animal shelters have changed a lot over the last few weeks in response to the coronavirus pandemic — to limit human contact and to continue to deliver care and services to those who need it most. They’re also preparing for a surge in animals as puppy and kitten season ramps up.

The majority of in-person services like vaccinations, spay and neuter clinics and events have been temporarily suspended and adoptions can only be made by appointment. Other services — like licensing — are now strictly available online. Pima Animal Care Center has even introduced telemedicine appointments so foster animals can be assessed for minor issues online and don't need to be brought in for a check up. 

If you’re already a pet owner there are some important things you’ll also want to prepare in case you become ill.

Here’s what to keep in mind.

If you want to adopt a pet

You can find photos of all the pets available for adoption on the shelters' websites. You’ll find all sorts of of helpful, detailed information about the adoptable pets including their age, weight, if they have experience with kids and other observations about their personalities. It’s pretty much like dating websites, except the interests of the potential matches include chasing lizards, squeaky toys and treats. All the treats.

If you think you’ve found your furr-ever friend online you can follow the agency’s instructions for making an adoption appointment or fill out adoption applications to be matched with the right pet when it becomes available.

PACC is receiving about 150 adoption applications every day, so there is a little bit of wait time for calls and emails to be returned.

Learn more about adoptions at PACC here

Learn more about adoptions at HSSAZ here.

Lear more about adoptions at Hermitage here

If you want to foster pets

PACC still has pets available to foster, but they are animals that “need very specific homes” and require more care than the average foster, says spokeswoman Nikki Reck. “Foster hopefuls will have to wait until their desired type of pet is in the shelter. No kittens or puppies yet, but the season is almost here and people can sign up to be ‘on deck’ for when they arrive.”

You can find out more about fostering and fill out an application online. There are currently about 2,000 applications in the queue, but last year PACC took in about 4,000 pets between April and May and a similar surge is expected when those puppy and kitten litters are brought in.  

HSSAZ also has foster opportunities, but is no longer offering its foster care training classes in person. Anyone interested in fostering can send an email to foster@hssaz.org

"We've been getting so many generous offers from members of our community offering up their homes to pets in need, so expect a few days for a reply," says Hannah Carl a spokeswoman for HSSAZ. 

If you find a stray pet

PACC is focusing on only taking in animals who need critical care due to illness, injury, neglect, abuse or if they’re a threat.

"We are still taking in emergency cases, but for healthy, friendly strays we are asking people to hang onto them so that we can focus on the pets that truly need us: the ones in the shelter, the ones in the clinic, and all the daily emergency cases we take in,” Reck says adding that the shelter gets between 20-30 emergency cases daily.

You can make a found-pet report by calling PACC at 520-724-7222 and PACC will help reunite the pet with its owner. As part of the process, you’ll be asked to get it scanned and then PACC will work on contacting the owner.

You can also contact the Lost & Found Department at HSSAZ and a staff member will help find the pet’s owner.

If you want to help pets

Monetary donations are always in demand and even more so now that many fundraising events have had to be canceled. Shelters may also need supplies including food and bedding. 

PACC's wish list can be found here

Donations to the Humane Society of Southern Arizona can be made online here. Or if you want to bring a bit of fun to your furry friend, HSSAZ is delivering cat or dog-themed Easter baskets with goods from PAWSH and a puzzle from its thrift store, with proceeds directly supporting the shelter. Baskets range in price from $30-$40 and a basket can also be purchased to be given to a shelter pet. Place your order by April 10 here

Donations to Hermitage can be made here

What to do with your own pets

If you need to license your dog, you can still complete the paperwork online

PACC, HSSAZ and the Hermitage No-Kill Cat Shelter and Sanctuary are urging all pet owners to have an emergency pet care plan in place in case they become ill during the pandemic. This includes finding a temporary caregiver for your pet in case you are hospitalized and putting together an emergency supply kit with two weeks of food, toys, medication and important pet documentation. You can find the full list of recommendations here

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