December 31st
A Year in Review ...and what a year 2020 has been!

As 2020 is coming to a close we wanted to take some time to reflect on what a year it’s been! Many people don’t realize that the Humane Society is an essential service and even though public access to our shelters remains by appointment only, our Animal Control Officers are out in the community and the staff continue to care for the vulnerable animals that come through our doors.  

Throughout this year, we’ve received many inquiries from the public and from the media to see how we are doing. Thank you for asking! It’s been a challenging year, but with some changes to our processes, additional pre-cautions against COVID-19, and some creativity from our development and programming teams we’ve remained open.

We’ve seen so many changes this year that it’s impossible to cover all of them, but here are a few of the big ones that we often get asked about.

What services were affected by COVID-19?

  • Medical services like rabies and spay/neuter clinics are now offered by appointment using a curb-side delivery method that is also practiced by the majority of veterinarians in the Region.
  • Adoption process is now mostly done online. 
  • Foster parents are a crucial part of our organization, now more than ever, but we’ll get to that in more detail later.
  • Our fundraising campaigns have gone virtual
  • Our community programs like camps, birthday parties, school & educational programming are now being offered online. The only exception is our puppy training classes. The training is done in person but with a very reduced class size to accommodate for social distancing. 

How is the Humane Society supporting the community during the pandemic?

Our Executive Director, Kathrin Delutis is an active member of the Community Services Working Group, which is part of the larger Waterloo Region Pandemic Control Group. The additional insight that she provides allows us to better manage the day-to-day planning and be more strategic in helping the community during these challenging times. The two most notable services that we’ve pioneered this year are the Emergency Community Pet Food Banks and the expansion of our free Emergency Pet Boarding to all of Waterloo Region residents. In the last six months, the number of emergency boarders in our Kitchener Centre has gone up by 75%, as a result of pet owners being hospitalized or too ill and turning to the Humane Society to care for their pets while they recover. Meanwhile, the Emergency Pet Food Bank provides free food and pet supplies not only to individuals, but also to other pet organizations in need. Our Animal Control Officers carry extra bags of food in their vehicles and deliver them while they are out on patrol to our most vulnerable neighbourhoods.

How has the adoption process changed and why are foster parents so important?

While our animals are waiting to be adopted, the majority of them are placed with our foster volunteers. There is actually a very limited number of animals physically in our centres. The rest are being cared for remotely and are brought in periodically for their medical appointments.  All available animals for adoption are placed on our website. Anyone interested in adopting an animal has to fill out a form online and our staff will review their application and set up a time for the foster parent to bring in the animal for them to meet at the centre.

Have adoptions gone up during the pandemic?

Adoptions at the Humane Society have been steady. Keep in mind that even with an increase in people looking to adopt pets, the only ones that the Humane Society has for adoption are animals that have been brought in as surrenders, strays, and occasional transfers from other organizations. 

Has there been an increase in pet surrenders?

Thankfully we have not seen an increase in people surrendering pets. 

Having said that, we are limiting the number of surrenders that we are able to take in due to a reduced number of staff who are physically working in our centres and our current process to keep the animals in foster care, where possible, until they are adopted. Ideally, we want to keep animals in their current homes, so we will work with pet owners providing support where we can to help them keep their animals vs surrendering. 

Has fundraising been affected by COVID-19?

Many people believe that the Humane Society is an arm of the government, but that’s not true. We do hold contracts with local governments to provide animal control services. These contracts make up about a third of our operating budget – meaning that the bulk of what the Humane Society does, it does as a charity.

This year, due to our inability to host many of our fundraising events, our development team pivoted to include a variety of new and creative digital fundraisers. With many options, like the online photo contests, poker tournament, comedy show, and even a wine tasting with an online sommelier, the team continued their outreach efforts to raise the funds needed to care for the animals in our centres. But despite their best efforts, we’ve seen a decrease by over a quarter in our fundraising revenues in 2020 vs 2019. ‘Hope for the Holidays’ is our final campaign of the year and we have faith that the community will help us bridge this gap in fundraising so that we can continue providing the care to the vulnerable pets and supporting the pet owners affected by COVID-19 in our communities.

Before we close off this year, we want to thank YOU, our loyal ambassadors, for remembering about the animals that need our help. We are hopeful that in 2021 we will be able to resume our in person services and programming, so that we can thank you for your support in person.

By: Anya Barradas, Marketing & Communications Manager