Earlier this year, we wrote about how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected animal sheltering, and what we’re seeing at LifeLine this year as a result. Returned “pandemic pets” have not spiked despite popular belief. However, adoption rates have gone down since that time, and our shelters are full once again with pets in need after a busy summer season. As we look ahead to the future of animal welfare, LifeLine joins a growing national effort to see more pets in homes, and out of the shelter, than ever before.
A comfy bed... a human to snuggle with… a big sigh of relief...
LifeLine Animal Project knows that a home is the very best place a pet can be. Homes provide a less stressful environment than shelters. They also help keep dogs and cats healthier since they aren’t being exposed to hundreds of other animals. By looking to the community as a resource, we have identified simple, effective strategies to help pets who don’t necessarily need to come through our doors.
Our goal is to create much-needed space in our shelters. Whether that’s for families who are facing unprecedented crises and have no where else to turn for their pets, or for animals in need of medical or behavioral rehabilitation. We want to ensure we have the capacity in our shelters to care for the pets in need the most.
There is a better way to help animals in our community; a way that prioritizes homes over the shelter. Here are some of the ways we can come together as a lifesaving community to better support our city’s pets in need.
LifeLine’s amazing foster parents also know that there’s no place like a home. They help keep hundreds of pets in need out of the shelter by caring for them in their homes. This helps each pet’s personality shine, making it easier for them to find a forever family. There are many LifeLine foster opportunities, both short and long term and for all different pets who come into our care. Currently, an average of 35% of pets in our care are living in foster homes. Our goal is to increase that number to 50% and sustain that rate over the long-term. Simply put, fostering saves many lives.
LifeLine advises anyone who finds a pet to first look for the owner. Since the majority of pets are found within a mile of their homes, pets who remain in the area where they were found have a much better chance of being reunited with their families and avoiding the shelter altogether.
If you aren’t able to locate the pet’s owner but you can keep the pet for five days during their shelter “hold” period, you can participate in our Friendly Finder program. This program keeps pets out of the shelter during their hold, frees up space for other pets in need of our care and gives pets a better chance of going home. Simply bring the pet to the DeKalb or Fulton County Animal Services shelter (depending on where you found the pet). We’ll provide the pet’s vaccines, flea treatment, dewormer, microchip and take the pet’s photos for our website before you take the pet home with you.
Microchips also give pets a better chance of finding their human parents, and we recommend that all lost pets be scanned for microchips (for free) at a vet clinic. For added convenience, LifeLine is now partnering with fire stations in the City of Decatur and DeKalb County where you may also bring any lost pet for a free microchip scan.
You should also upload a photo to Petco Love Lost, a free service that uses facial recognition to help lost pets find their family.
Homes can look different for different animals. While dogs typically do best in individual homes, some cats are happiest living in communities where they are cared for by neighbors. A cat with an ear tip (the top of the ear is clipped) is a community cat. The ear tip designates that the cat has already been spayed or neutered, vaccinated and returned to his outdoor “home,” where he is being cared for by community caretakers. If you remove the cat from his home and put him in a cage at the shelter, he will most likely be miserable and do poorly.
Also, not every cat you see outside is a lost cat. If a cat doesn’t have an ear tip and looks healthy, she may just be an indoor/outdoor cat out on a stroll. Bringing her to the shelter means she may never see her family again, so please let her be. If you find a litter of kittens that don’t look dirty, cold, underweight, sick or injured, their mom is probably nearby. View this flowchart under “Found Kittens” to determine if the kittens need your help.
Giving Up a Pet
Sometimes people feel that they have no choice but to give up the pets they love when they find themselves facing a housing or similar crisis. LifeLine knows pets are much better off with the people who love them than in our shelter. So we provide resources to help keep people and their pets together. If you are struggling to keep your pet or may be facing upcoming challenges, we may be able to help. Reach out as early as possible so that we have more time to look for possible solutions to prevent your family from losing a beloved pet. Rehoming your pet is another option to ensure your pet goes directly into a new home instead of a shelter.
Please help us make room in our shelters for the pets most in need of our care by doing the following:
- If you find a lost pet, please try to locate their family or become a Friendly Finder.
- If you see an ear-tipped or healthy looking cat, leave them be.
- Foster a pet for the day, a weekend or longer!
- If you need to find a new home for your pet, read our tips on rehoming your pet.
Please contact LifeLine’s Community Support team if you are facing a crisis or having trouble caring for your pet.