Area animal shelters need help during pandemic

By Page H. Gifford

Though it would seem there is a glimmer of light at the end of the long dark economic tunnel for area animal shelters it cannot come soon enough. 

For most charities, it has been a time of uncertainty and fear during the pandemic since all rely on outside assistance and monetary donations to stay afloat. News sources from around the country have spread the word that animal shelters have seen a rise in adoptions. Though this may be true for some, the  reality is that for every dog or cat adopted, there are more waiting in the wings to take their place. It is an ongoing problem that the pandemic made worse.

While some charities may be able to work around the pandemic, or wait it out looking ahead to better times, animal shelters cannot afford that luxury — the animals have to eat and be cared for. There is no denying that fundraising has been put on hold for many charities.

 “At this time, we are experiencing a significant drop in income from the decrease in activities and having to cancel all off-site fundraisers,” said Fluvanna SPCA Shelter Manager Jessy Shifflett. “As an organization that depends on monetary donations to care for all of the animals coming through our doors, we are worried about how this loss of revenue will affect the animals who depend on us especially in regards to vet visits. Because of this, we are most in need of monetary donations.”

Shifflett said adoptions have slowed due to the unavailability to spay and neuter but fostering remains steady.

“Our fostering is the best it has ever been being more and more people have so much time on their hands due to the COVID-19. However, the family interested can still foster to adopt while awaiting the surgery. All of our available animals are currently in foster homes awaiting a forever family to meet them and can be viewed on our website at,” she said. “This is great for them because they do not have to wait for a family in the shelter. They can spend their days in a home and also allows us to get to know how they do in the home as well.”

On the downside, Shifflett says the FSPCA has received a few owner surrenders and hopes that this does not continue. She says the FSPCA is hoping to reach out to some other rescues to help them make space and may be able to conduct spay and neutering in their  shelters so that they are not as backed up once everything starts to go back to normal.

“This would be our second biggest need.”

As for Peaceful Passings, like other area shelters, there is no fundraising.

“No adoption  events allowed in local stores. Not only are adoption events an opportunity for adoptions, but usually we receive $40-50 from public donations. Not happening,” said Jackie Meyers, president of Peaceful Passings. “No public fundraisers. No money.” She was also looking forward to promoting her book but now that is on hold as well.

She understands that with people out of work donations are down.

“People are spending stimulus checks on needs, not wants. Therefore, we are not running an online auction in May. Maybe later, we will see.” She fears that the coronavirus outbreak will last 12 – 18 months, from what she has heard from news sources. “If so, there will be no fundraising events through the end of the year.” In the meantime, Meyers is struggling to help those who need her most. “Life must go on, for us and the animals. We are all struggling to make that happen. I’ve applied for six to seven coronavirus grants. I don’t know if I will receive them – the funds are drying up,” she said. “Few of the staff will show up because everyone wants to practice social distancing and stay safe and few volunteers will show up for the same reason. We depend on youth groups coming out to help us in the spring and fall. We have to do all of the work ourselves with limited help.” Meyers wished she had more uplifting news.

 Caring For Creatures shares many of the same problems.

“Caring For Creatures is blessed to have amazing fosters who have stepped up to welcome a dog into their homes.  We do have a number of our population that are not good candidates for fostering so they remain here at the sanctuary.  But those who are in foster are enjoying all the time and special attention from their foster families,” said Mary Birkholz, president of Caring for Creatures.

For CFC adoptions are a bright spot. Adoptions are rising and they receive applications daily.  

“We are doing our regular screening process and are taking special care to be sure adopters are fully committed to providing a life-long home for our animals even once the stay at home restrictions are lifted and life returns to normal – whatever that turns out to be.  With dogs in foster homes and an increase in adoptions, we can help other animals who need a safe place and a new forever home.  Our adoption counselors spend lots of time on finding the best match we can for the animal as well as the adopting family,” she said.

Like the others, Birkholz said she too has had to cancel two public fundraising events.

“We are taking a hit from that perspective.” CFC has also applied for a couple of supporting grants as well as the PPP loan from the Small Business Administration.  Birkholz remains optimistic that one or all will come through.  Their work is labor-intensive and the staff is always a necessity now that volunteer participation is limited or postponed.  

“We have also been blessed by the generosity of the animal-loving public,” she said, thanking those who have stepped forward with donations of food, cleaning supplies, and paper products. “This means the world to us and all our sanctuary animals.  These gifts are lifesaving.  Our needs, like other non-profits, are also to receive financial support.  We realize that so many are suffering from the loss of a job and their regular income – our hearts go out to them.  At a minimum, we must continue to pay for our staff, utilities, veterinary care, and other necessary supplies.  So for those folks who are in a position to make a financial gift, in any amount, your help is greatly appreciated.”

Shelters have had their moments of uncertainty but Birkholz believes that CFC and others  will hang on in the same way they have had to hang on in other challenging times.

“We will do it with hard work, a creative approach to fundraising, a large dose of faith, positive thinking despite what is going on in our world, and through the generosity of our supporters.  We may need to make adjustments and cut some corners now and then, but we find ways to stretch every dollar we receive without jeopardizing the quality of care provided to the animals.”

No one saw this coming and stretching their resources is the only way to save the animals they have pledged to help. Birkholz said she wanted to thank the community for all of the gifts and prayers they have received.

“It is so appreciated.  Fluvanna County is blessed to have several great rescue groups working to help animals and I know each of us is grateful for all of you.  We want everyone to be safe and to be well during this difficult time.”

If anyone would like to help, contact the following,,, and

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