Like so many other organizations, businesses, and families that were profoundly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, so was Rescue Village. And still today the effects of this malicious virus continue to take a stronghold.
When the Ohio Stay at Home Order was initiated last March, Rescue Village had 77 animals in our care. The barn animals would stay, others were in foster, but 52 dogs and cats were living in our shelter and had to be relocated within hours. Staff worked swiftly to find temporary homes for all of them. And soon the shelter was empty and quiet. Nobody knew when we, the volunteers, or the animals, would be returning. We furloughed half of our staff and those remaining came in to deep clean the building, sort donations and care for the barn animals.
Fast forward two weeks. The animals and a few more staff returned. Procedures were quickly outlined for virtual adoptions, curbside TNR services and contact-less pet surrenders. As programs were reinvented the staff needed to operate those programs were brought back from furlough. Hours were cut and pay was decreased but there was work to do. Everyone was cross-trained and no job was the same as was before the onset of COVID-19.
Today we still have some staff members on furlough but there are only a couple of programs that are not currently operating; on-site education programs, summer and winter camps for kids, new volunteer recruitment and training, and our wonderful Pawsitive Steps program for young men serving time in the juvenile detention system. Most of the Rescue Village 2020 fundraising events were cancelled and others were made virtual or scaled back. This created our most significant loss of income.
What did happen is that our adoptions, intakes and spay/neuter surgeries not only were reinvented, but the number of people and animals that have been served is impressive, even by pandemic standards! We doubled the number of TNR days to handle the backlog created by our inability to perform these surgeries during quarantine. We worked harder to keep people and their pets together. We delivered pet food to existing food pantries across Geauga, Cuyahoga and Lake counties so that people did not have to worry about how they would feed their companion animals. We partnered with special donors with big hearts, Pet Wants Pet Food, churches, and even Adventure Subaru to distribute as much pet food as the community needed and to-date we have given away nearly 10,000 pounds of cat and dog food. Even our Humane Education program will soon have a full array of virtual and take-home educational activities for kids.
We still do not know what to expect in the coming months. Will people begin to surrender animals in record numbers due to illness, inability to care for them, and pending evictions? Will our small but mighty staff succumb to the spread of this virus forcing another complete shutdown? We don’t have the answers to these questions and so we stand ready for whatever comes. Meanwhile, our building doors remain closed to the public and our services are all being offered virtually or curbside. The shelter occupancy rate is being held down to 50%, and we still have only brought the most essential staff back to work. Our safety and cleaning protocols are rigid but for good reason.
Our leadership continues to monitor the situation and make adjustments as needed and are doing so with the health and safety of both animals and people at the top of mind. We are fully committed to taking this opportunity to look at new ways to continue to deliver services to the community that address its needs and keep people and their pets safe. Together we can do this!