Shelter Hope Adapts to New Normal

Shelter Hope Adapts to New Normal

Shelter Hope animal rescue is one of the thousands of small businesses affected by the COVID-19 stay-at-home order mandated in mid-March. Consequently, the foster-based animal rescue located in the Janss Marketplace has adopted a new normal.

“Shelter Hope has definitely been flexible and is adapting daily to the new challenges that face an animal rescue during a pandemic,” says Founder Kim Sill.

Usually open Wednesday through Sunday for adoptions, Shelter Hope typically adopts out 12 dogs a week, says Kim. In addition to adoptions, Shelter Hope also picks up dogs in need from high-kill shelters throughout California and transports them to vets who can treat, spay/neuter, vaccinate and microchip them.

Shelter Hope depends on the community to help house rescued dogs until they find their forever homes. Pre-CV-19, foster volunteers from Lake Sherwood, Westlake Village, Thousand Oaks, Oak Park and Newbury Park would care for the dogs at night and drop them off daily at Shelter Hope during business hours, however, the pandemic changes posed challenges to their usual system.

“The first big challenge was how do we change the fundamental way we operate during this unprecedented event?” says Kim, adding, “And who is going to help us continue to save the dogs in need while we service our already adopted dogs to families who need things now and have just lost their jobs?”

Add to that the fact that two large government shelters in Los Angeles recently closed, asking the public and animal rescues to take in the strays and unwanted animals.

Kindness in Crisis

“Fortunately Shelter Hope was not left standing alone,” says Kim, pointing to Bark and Rec, a boarding and doggie daycare facility in Agoura Hills that offered to help with their overflow.

“Bark and Rec was feeling the crunch of families at home as people stopped bringing in their pets,” explains Kim. “The owner Deborah mentioned to us that if we needed to bring in more than our normal, she would be up for the challenge. Kindness in the midst of this crisis was very welcome and we took her up on the offer.”

Dedicated volunteers have also remained steadfast in their service, caring for the dogs at Bark and Rec each day—Newbury Park resident and longtime Shelter Hope volunteer Bruce Pittman and Christina Hackett, a longtime volunteer who interviews potential foster families and people wanting to adopt.

“Bruce told me that if he didn't continue to help, he would go crazy,” laughs Kim, noting that he protects himself by always wearing a mask and gloves. “I get a glimmer of hope every time I see Bruce sitting with the rescue dogs. One person can change the world by giving people hope,” she says.

Growing Need

Shelter Hope has experienced an increase in the number of daily calls from families needing assistance during these challenging times.

“Food and vet care are at the top of the list, as many concerned residents are worried about being out of work and not sure how they can care for the maintenance of their pets,” says Kim.

Additional concerns include those from senior citizens requesting help with walking their pets and getting groceries for themselves and food for their pets.

“We are able to provide assistance and have been walking dogs for people, dropping off food and supplies and the occasional grocery store shopping too,” says Kim, adding “Our friends at Pet Food Express gave us an enormous discount on all that we purchase and load it into our cars for us.”

Kim says Shelter Hope has experienced an increased interest from people wanting to adopt and foster because they have a lot of time on their hands, which she says presents additional challenges during these uncertain times.

“Obviously, that is great news, but in trying to be safe and social distance, how do we make sure that we are placing this dog into a safer place than the one we provide?” Kim asks. “Balancing our new normal is ongoing, and we remain optimistic as we face the days ahead of us and sign up lots of new foster families and place more dogs than ever into their forever homes. As you can see, it is a village of caring and generous humans that hold us together and support us through this pandemic.”

Shelter Hope is currently holding adoptions by appointment only at Bark and Rec in Agoura Hills and at their Shelter Hope location in the Janss Marketplace.

Contact Shelter Hope at 805.379.3538 for information about adopting or fostering a dog or for general assistance with your pets.

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