Following decades of animal rescue work, in January 2020 registered veterinary technician Deassa Binstock followed her heart by co-founding, with friend and veterinary work colleague, Bergen Bridges, the Ripple Effect Animal Project (REAP), a non-profit, foster-based animal rescue project in Napa County.
Little did the women know that Napa, like the rest of the country and world, was teetering on the precipice of the COVID-19 pandemic, a situation that hurt animal rescue organizations and shelters in a myriad unanticipated ways.
While there have been challenges and changes, the pandemic has created a few bright spots too when it comes to rescuing, fostering and eventually adopting pets.
At least locally, Binstock who also works at Napa Humane, reports that she has not seen a surge in local residents surrendering their pets due to loss of jobs and homes. Shelters have, however, had to recreate long practices by establishing a new foster-based approach, and adoptions by appointment only.
Organizations such as REAP, the Napa County Animal Shelter and Wine Country Animal Lovers (located in Calistoga, and which like REAP is 100% foster based and run solely by volunteers), have been busy.
“What has really come out of all of this has been a new way of sheltering animals,” said Binstock who added that because of the risk of exposure to the coronavirus, shelters were only staff members, and not volunteers, were allowed to take care of the animals, so the number of animals accepted to the shelter had to be kept low.
Who took care of the overflow? “All of the people that stepped up to foster, not only for the shelter but for all of the rescues,” is another positive outcome, according to Binstock. “People do every time Napa has any type of disaster, whether for the fires, the earthquake, or whatever.”
Animal fostering is a process by which a household applies to take an animal into their home for a non-permanent period of time (typically a couple of weeks to two months), though it is possible that there is a “fit” and the foster home becomes a forever home for the pet.
Just as adopting families are screened, foster families are also screened with an application and home check for safety, acclimation and a good fit for the family and ultimately the pet. “We try to make it a pleasant experience. We provide everything. It shouldn’t be cost- prohibitive; we provide food and veterinary care,” Binstock added.
“Another silver lining of the pandemic, is that because a lot of people are at home, a lot of people are fostering,” Binstock said. This took pressure off of the shelter, which was prepared as a rapid increase in COVID-19 cases likely would have meant that pets of hospitalized coronavirus patients would have needed a place to stay. “I think that in hindsight, they were prepared, the shelter is the disaster response team.”
“Foster homes are so important, not only in a pandemic like this, but just in general,” Binstock said. “You get to know the animals better, understand their house habits, and see how they are with other animals. For pets, a lot of good came out of this pandemic for sure.”
According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) website, because of the comfort and unconditional love that a pet can provide, by mid-March of this year, the organization was already seeing and unprecedented fostering and adoption enthusiasm in several cities, including a nearly 70% increase in animals going into foster care through their New York City and Los Angeles foster programs.
Binstock said that the result is that rescues have been adopting out like crazy, “We have all been really busy, it is all that we have been focusing on,” she said.
Because the rescues had space, they too could receive pets from the shelters that needed to conserve space for more animals and their limited staff.
Binstock said that as people continue to stay at home, it is a good time to consider adopting a pet. “During this time, people that had stability were seeking pets. It was the perfect time to adopt an animal, as people had time that they wouldn’t normally have. The shelter had some really great adoptions, including some long-timers, a few dogs and cats that had been there awhile. One of the dogs was easily there from six months to a year before adoption.”
Since January, REAP has rescued more than 60 animals, which are now all within veterinary care, fostered out or adopted, Binstock said. As a new nonprofit, without a facility, it is run out of passion, drive and determination to take care. Binstock said that all of the animal shelter and rescue groups need money, although the shelter is a Napa County entity, and therefore the separate Friends of the Napa County Animal Shelter can raise their needed funds.
For REAP, they are just getting started and Binstock reports that adoption fees do not begin to cover the veterinary care, professional care, food and supplies needed to sustain a rescued animal. For more information, search for Ripple Effect Animal Project and “Like” it on Facebook or send an email to email@example.com.
Please feel free to submit questions, topics and ideas for future pet columns to Lisa Adams Walter at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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