The recent pandemic has changed so many facets of our lives and has reached us in ways many Americans never thought possible. At a minimum, most lives, businesses and social routines will be different in some way for a long time. For some members of our community those routines and lives have been altered in unimaginable ways. The uncertainty is certainly a part of many of our lives.
SPCA Tampa Bay, just like every other “business,” entered the pandemic with a lot of “what if” scenarios.
A couple of months ago we only had a few concrete answers. Even as a non-profit, we have payroll, utilities, supply costs, among other things—and have hundreds of animal lives in our care at any given time at our veterinary center and shelter. SPCA Tampa Bay is a charity and last year we took in more than 9,500 animals. We rely on the community and our donors now more than ever to help us with those animals in our care.
As variations of lock down resolutions and local state of emergencies started to rise, it became apparent to us that animal welfare organizations were in a gray zone with respect to being classified as “essential businesses.”
Our local and state animal welfare leaders had to take immediate and direct action to ensure government officials would see that veterinary centers and shelters were still a vital part of our community. Although some confusion persisted, we are proud to say our efforts prevailed, and our organization can remain open during this time, if they can find the resources to persist.
SPCA Tampa Bay is a “for-all” shelter, meaning we will take any animal for any reason, once a person has made the decision to surrender a pet. In this time of crisis, it was critically important to find ways to stay open when our community most needed us.
As a result, we are still taking surrendered pets, and continuing our processes of providing medical care all while following the most recent CDC guidelines. And we are still getting animals out through adoption, although the process is a little different these days.
The cost of providing care to the animals is unchanged—vaccines, medications, supplies—and the cost of staff to take care of the animals, is still the same as it was before. During a seven day stretch in April we took in 112 animals, meaning our services are still in high demand.
Our staff has the same concerns as everyone else. They come to work in good spirits, but now must take into account their own health. Everyone is wearing masks at our veterinary center, maintaining their social distance, but still gather apart to provide life-saving care and treatments to our non-human family members. Each day is challenging with team members calling out sick, or having child care issues.
Many of them are struggling to find solutions in their own personal stories while still performing important work. That’s what animal welfare professionals do, whether it’s in times of crisis, or just another day of the week.
I am so proud of how the entire organization has found a way around these difficult times to keep our doors open, provide opportunities for these animals and to remain essential.
If you can, your support is needed and is more important than ever.
You can help by signing up for our 29th annual Pet Walk. It’s going to be a virtual experience and it takes place on Saturday April 18, at 9:30 a.m. Petwalk.org, has more information. Or, if you can, become a regular donor by visiting spcatampabay.org/donate—even a few dollars a month can make a very real difference.
By Rizal Lopez, DVM
Spay/Neuter Services Program Director
We will continue taking Pet Walk donations through the end of April. Visit PetWalk.org to donate today.