COVID-19 and Animal Welfare Guidelines

Updated April 3, 2020

To our wonderful community,

We hope that you are staying safe and healthy during these times of crisis. Our hearts go out to everyone affected by the pandemic in our region and throughout the world as we face these anxious and uncertain times together.

We want to reach out to keep you updated about guidelines that are emerging from the animal welfare field, and to keep you informed about our efforts to adapt to these guidelines, to keep our community safe, and to help as many felines and humans as we can, both in the short term and long into the future.

Adoptions: Currently at SAFe Rescue we have 37 cats and kittens in care. The heightened need for social distancing means that face-to-face adoptions are not currently advisable in our small facility, but our Adoptions Team is hard at work on a solution… Virtual adoptions! We are pioneering a system where prospective adopters will go through the adoption counseling process and “meet” the kitty online, followed by a no-contact pick-up of their new furry family member. We aim to roll out virtual adoptions by Thursday, April 9. Please stay tuned for updates about how to adopt virtually, and we will share more details with you as soon as we have them.

Medical Care: During this public health crisis, the majority of our medical team is not able to be onsite at the rescue. Moreover, while the majority of our feline population is in foster care, there is a need to practice social distancing and limit or eliminate face-to-face interactions between foster caregivers and medical staff. We are currently working to solve this dilemma by developing capacity for telehealth solutions and remote medical check-ins, and by exploring options for additional medical support.

Intake and Transport: Currently, leaders in the animal welfare field including The ASPCA, the Humane Society of the United States, The Association for Animal Welfare Advancement, The National Association Care and Control Association, multiple professional Shelter Medicine programs, and many others, are advising shelters and rescues across the continent to suspend business as usual and to halt intake of homeless animals and transfers from other shelters, except in certain emergency situations. Excellence and data-driven best practices are at the core of SAFe Rescue’s values, which means that, although this is a heartbreaking message to hear, it is one we must take very seriously and abide by as best we can. 

This week, we have paused most of our intake to focus on TLC for the 37 felines currently in our care (most of whom have faced medical or behavioral challenges) and to plan for our virtual adoptions and telehealth solutions. Once those are up and running, we hope to assist our partners with emergency situations, including taking in kitties, to the full extent that we can provide quality, safe care while complying with the guidelines from the experts.  

Spay and Neuter: Unprecedented times call for unprecedented measures: just as non-essential surgeries are being postponed for human patients, experts across the animal welfare field now advise that non-essential surgeries for animals must be postponed to preserve vital PPE and oxygen supplies. These recommendations direct shelters, rescues, and clinics throughout the US to halt spay and neuter surgeries. Locally, we have seen our respected partner S/N clinics close temporarily to comply with these guidelines and for the safety of their staff. 

In light of these guidelines, experts now recommend adopting out unaltered animals as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This is a very difficult thing to hear for so many of us who have worked tirelessly to advocate for spay and neuter. Even as we are saddened by this situation, however, we also understand that keeping the humans in our community safe will also be better for felines in the long term. Likewise, when spay and neuter is not possible, it is not fair to unaltered animals to keep them homeless indefinitely. 

For unaltered felines in SAFe Rescue’s care, we are developing a revised adoption process that includes an expectation to spay/neuter the adopted kitty, additional counseling on how to live (temporarily) with unaltered felines, and a follow-up system to support owners and provide them with resources and access to low cost spay and neuter once surgeries are available again. 

Sadly, we know that across the country the measures that must be taken now to keep humans safe will soon result in an overwhelming number of cats and kittens in need. Currently, we are doing everything we can at SAFe Rescue to adapt and find innovative ways to help during this crisis—and to make sure that we get through to the other side ready to save more cats than ever before. The felines in our community and beyond need our help… And now, in these troubled times, we humans need their companionship and comfort more than ever before.

(The rescue needs your help, too! See our recent blog for ideas on actions you can take to make a difference!)

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Seattle Area Feline Rescue is a non-profit, no-kill rescue located in Shoreline, WA. We specialize in saving cats and kittens and finding them loving homes!