Pets in the age of coronavirus: With the shelter closed, be the shelter


Do you consider yourself modern royalty, and you’re looking for a cat who matches? Then Peach (A473450) wants to meet you. She’s a little slow to warm up to people, so she needs a special foster who will be patient with her while she comes out of her shell.

It’s been a really strange couple of weeks, hasn’t it? Last month, my biggest problem to solve was figuring out what color to paint my dining room. Do I go bold and dramatic with Restoration Hardware Blue Sage, or something more subtle and tranquil like Almond Milk from Dunn Edwards?

These were the types of decisions keeping me up at night (and completely annoying Andrew, who could care less what color the walls are in the first place).

Now, in what seems like a blink of an eye, we’ve all had to adapt to a “new normal” in terms of how we live, work, and connect as our country attempts to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Thoughts of paint swatches and complimenting accessories dissipated as much more urgent decisions had to be made. For us at the Pasadena Humane Society & SPCA (PHS), the most critical matter was this: In order to observe recommendations by health and government officials to maximize social distancing measures, how do we completely change how we operate and still manage our high volume of lifesaving work for the thousands of animals we care for every year?

To say the least, this was an “all hands on deck” kind of moment for us – and as tough as it was to do, the decision we made to close to the public as early on as we did turned out to be the exactly right thing to do for the community, for our staff and volunteers, and ultimately for the animals in our care.

Closing our doors to the public meant that we could focus our efforts on finding temporary foster homes for as many animals as we could. With most of our population out to foster, we could function with fewer staff onsite and still provide good care and enrichment for the animals.

Have you ever had to completely rewrite your operations playbook in the span of a week? It’s not for the faint of heart, let me tell you. But we did it – and there are a few reasons why we were able to do it so swiftly and successfully.

First, we have, hands down, the most thoughtful and caring team of professionals I’ve ever worked with. In a moment when every process and procedure had to be completely blown up and reimagined, our animal care and health teams rolled with each punch and always chose kindness in the face of a frustrating challenge.

The second reason, and most humbling if I’m being honest, was the huge outpouring of support from members of the community who stepped up to foster homeless pets. Truly, I’ve never seen anything like it. We got countless phone calls, emails, and messages on social media from people willing to open up their home to a homeless pet (and in some cases several pets). At one point, we couldn’t even really keep up with the demand. It’s a great problem to have.

And finally, we were able to act so quickly because our census was already pretty low when all of this began. If there was anything fortunate about the timing of this, it’s that the first three months of the year are typically the slowest for animal shelters.

So while it has been amazing to see the public outpouring of support, my biggest worry now is that our busiest season is about to begin in the coming weeks – which means we’ll start to see spikes in the number of homeless animals coming through our doors in need of care, particularly kittens.

My hope is that the community will remain just as engaged and interested in fostering over the summer months when we will need the help the most. Because while we have been fortunate to place the majority of our shelter pets into foster homes, the hard work has only just begun.

If you’re wondering how you can help us out going forward, I’ve got some ideas:

Foster a shelter pet: PHS still needs special needs fosters for shy/fearful cats, large breed dogs that must be the only pet in the home and animals that need medical care. We provide all the supplies and support. If you can foster one of these pets, contact with “Special Needs” in the subject line.

Become a community foster: If you find orphaned baby kittens, first try to reunite the kittens with their mom. If you cannot find mom, raise the kittens at your home. If you found the kittens in one of our 11 animal control contract cities, PHS will provide you with the supplies and support. If you need help, please contact, with “Found Kittens” in the subject line.

Reunite lost pets: If you find a lost pet, try to find the pet’s owner before you bring it to the shelter. Also note that many cats are not truly lost, but are indoor/outdoor pets or are community cats who live in your neighborhood. These cats do not need to come to the shelter.

Make a donation: We are a private non-profit, which means we need your help to continue daily operations. You can make an in-kind donation from our Amazon wishlist or make a monetary donation online at

It’s highly likely that we will continue to rewrite our operations playbook as we navigate the uncertain times ahead. We will continue to adapt and change as the needs of the community evolve. We’ve been doing this for more than 117 years, so we’ve weathered our share of difficult moments in history. Our commitment to the animals is as unwavering as ever. We’ll get through this.

They say adversity does not build character – it reveals it. To see the collective strength of character our community has demonstrated by stepping up to help is humbling, and I’m grateful for all of you. With your help, we will save them all!