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Local Animal Rescue Shares How It’s Tackling Adoption Demand During Pandemic

A local animal rescue group has turned to online resources and bringing in animals from outside Northern Virginia to keep up with the rising adoption demand.

The Lost Dog and Cat Rescue Foundation in Falls Church almost closed when the pandemic hit the Northern Virginia area but decided to stay open under the guidance of its co-founder Pam McAlwee, according to Kim Williams, one of the foundation’s volunteers.

Over the last few weeks, the organization saw a large increase in cat and dog adoptions, Williams said, adding that compared to April 2019, adoptions are up about 60%.

“It’s unlike anything anyone could have ever predicted,” she said.

When the pandemic first hit, Williams said she was concerned because “everything came to a screeching halt.”

The local pet supply stores, which usually would co-host adoption events with Lost Dog, halted their events, and people could no longer meet potential fosters in-person due to health concerns.

But that didn’t stop the foundation from continuing to help furry friends find homes.

Through Zoom appointments and phone consultation, three main volunteers ended up “working around the clock” to process roughly 300 pet inquires and match animals with homes in the first few weeks when people started staying home, Williams said.

“All of a sudden they became Match.com overnight,” she said.

In April alone, the organization took in roughly 370 dogs, according to Williams.

When finding homes for the animals, the volunteers consider a variety of factors, including the age of an animal, preexisting medical conditions, the size of the pet and household factors like children or the presence of a yard, Williams said.

Despite the time-consuming process of matching an animal to an owner, Williams said the team created spreadsheets and even worked to find adopters and fosters for animals that require special care and attention — like Grey, a pup who spent more than 500 days in Lost Dog’s shelter and loves to eat everything in his site — including furniture.

One upside to the pandemic is that people are spending extra time with their foster animals and discovering triggers and solutions for misbehavior that would otherwise cause incompatibility issues, Williams said.

Because many of the animals from the Northern Virginia area have either been adopted or placed in a foster home, the shelter is bringing in roughly 70 animals per week from places such as Puerto Rico, Mississippi and Southern Virginia — all areas with a large number of stray animals. Williams said that a local vet in Mississippi told her that the area was a “dumping ground” for animals.

Though adoptions and fosters have increased over the last few weeks, Williams said it isn’t cheap to rescue animals from across state lines.

Before an animal can be sent to foster homes or be adopted, the shelter has to pay somewhere between $125-$170 in fees depending on the size of animals to take them over state lines. That’s on top of all of the medical expenses to ensure they are healthy.

Thanks to thousands of dollars in donations from an anonymous donor and a partnership with a nearby animal hospital, the shelter has managed to keep up with demand, Williams said.

The Lost Dog and Cat Rescue Foundation prides itself on its ethics, according to Williams. “We never discriminate based on age, breed or health conditions,” she said, adding that they will take in any dog or cat in need of care. 

Anyone interested in fostering an animal or adopting can check out the foundation’s website.

Photos courtesy Kim Williams Photography 

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