Animal rescue organizations and shelters hit hard

In the hopes of spurring adoptions, on Tuesday afternoon through Facebook, HART for Animals hosted a virtual "Yappy Hour," in which they showed off some of the adoptable dogs currently there. The idea, executive director Paula Yudelevit said, was "mostly to show (the dogs') personalities" to give hopeful adopters a better idea of what their potential new pooch is like. Here, volunteer coordinator Audrey Friend introduces Fran, a 9-year-old hound mix who's one of the available dogs for adoption at the center.

ACCIDENT — In light of the current tumult, one can always look to a furry friend for comfort. And that’s exactly what some local animal-centric organizations hope folks choose to do.

As with so many other areas of everyday life, animal rescues and shelters have hit unexpectedly hard times in the face of the rapidly spreading COVID-19. Paula Yudelevit, executive director of HART for Animals Inc. in Accident, said Tuesday that adoptions have been down lately as more people have begun to stay home. They’ve also seen two of their three revenue centers that help pay the mortgage — the boarding services of Bed ‘N Bark Inn and Muttworks Grooming — all but shut down in light of the disease, she said.

The grooming facet is closed as a nonessential business, Yudelevit explained, but the boarding remains partially open for emergency situations, like if someone were to fall ill and need a place to put their pets while hospitalized. Still, she said, while they’re normally close to fully booked at the pet hotel — which she described as “everything” to their fiscal operations — there’s currently a 1% occupation rate.

“It’s tough on everybody,” Yudelevit said.

Additionally, Yudelevit noted the timing of the occurrences of the last few weeks is unfortunate for nonprofits like theirs, as spring is generally the start of fundraising season for many organizations. To comply with the public health-centered order, she said, HART has had to postpone a few events that collectively were worth about $20,000 in fundraising dollars.

Meanwhile, they’ve locked the doors to people without appointments, Yudelevit said, and are gladly welcoming both monetary and supply donations to be able to secure critical items like medication for the animals, as well as folks who’d like to adopt. She’s uncertain how long they’ll be able to last on their current coffers, she said, and they have unfortunately already had to make layoffs to preserve what they do have.

“We need to save the animals, but I also want to stay open,” Yudelevit said. “We will prevail.”

On Tuesday, the Allegany County Animal Shelter also switched to appointment-only operations. Executive director Tina Rosa said they’ve had to suspend community adoption events and others that would encourage gatherings larger than currently is legal. However, she said, the “Hounds Around Town” program is still operational.

They’re also still welcoming potential adopters, Rosa said. Space at the shelter isn’t overcrowded yet, she said, but that will likely change soon as they anticipate a busy “kitten season,” exacerbated by the mild winter.

“We’re holding our own right now, but this time of year that’ll fill up quickly,” Rosa said.

Rosa also said she’s concerned about what the future will hold for the shelter in fiscal terms.

“This has affected everyone,” Rosa said. “Look at all the people who’ve fallen on hard times because they’ve been forced out of work … and we rely very much on our community. It’s a very scary time for nonprofits and fundraising. Right now, our hands are tied … and we’re going to have to put our creative technical skills to use.”

Follow staff writer Lindsay Renner-Wood on Twitter @LindsayRenWood.

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