Sandra Simmons (from left), Karen Coullahan, and Tami McConnel work at cleaning and updating Santa Cruz County Animals Shelter while animals are being fostered during COVID-19. —Photo provided by Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter

SANTA CRUZ COUNTY—In the first few weeks of the countywide shelter-in-place order, the Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter (SCCAS) saw an unprecedented amount of adoptions. 

About 126 dogs, cats and rabbits were adopted, including many animals who had been at the shelter for months.

“People said that they had been wanting to adopt, but only when they could take a couple of weeks off work to acclimate the animals,” said SCCAS Program and Development Manager Erika Anderson. “It’s been the perfect time and fit for these animals to find new homes.”

Shelter volunteers and other community members have been fostering the remainder of the animals at home during the COVID-19 outbreak. An online adoption process has been set up; people can browse pets online and make appointments with a staff member to adopt. 

While its clinic is mostly shut down, the shelter’s other services, including animal control and stray animal drop-off, continue.

“We’re still here and available to help,” Anderson said.

The shelter is currently undergoing a deep cleaning, and was recently given donations of paint to repaint the interior during the slow time. And since SCCAS is a County agency, some staff who are designated as Disaster Service Workers have been helping with other duties, including working with the homeless.

“Our team is stepping up to do things they probably never thought they’d be doing when they signed up to work here,” Anderson said. “They’re doing an incredible job. ”

The Santa Cruz SPCA has also been adapting to shelter-in-place. According to Executive Director Alison Talley, they were able to move nearly all of the animals into foster homes within three days of the order.

“It was really remarkable,” Talley said. “We’ve been blown away by the outpouring of support.”

The SPCA has closed its Capitola Mall store/adoption center and suspended nonessential programs, such as its humane education classes for children. But its Support for Seniors program remains active, as does its Ask a Dog Trainer service, which has moved online.

“We’ve been able to adapt and recreate some of these programs pretty smoothly,” Talley said.

Talley gave this advice to pet owners: be prepared for anything.

“Find your pets a temporary caregiver, just in case,” she said. “This prevents your animal from getting put into a shelter if you get sick.”

SCCAS and the SPCA are both offering a Pet Food Pantry, where residents can drop off and pick up donations of pet food and supplies. SCCAS opened one on Tuesday in Santa Cruz, and Anderson said another will open at the Watsonville shelter (580 Airport Blvd.) this Wednesday from 10 a.m-noon. The SPCA will retain its regular Pet Food Pantry hours, Fridays from 3:30-5:30 p.m.

Both shelters are also taking online monetary donations.

“I think now, more than ever, these animals rely on this community,” Talley said. “And people are in need of companionship. It’s an ideal time to adopt.”

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Reporter Johanna Miller grew up in Watsonville, attending local public schools and Cabrillo College before transferring to Pacific University Oregon to study Literature. She covers arts and culture, business, nonprofits and agriculture.


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