Cleveland APL is working to rebuild foster & volunteer networks as animal intake returns to normal

An adult brown dog standing in a clearing surrounded by trees in the fall.
The Cleveland Animal Protective League's biggest challenge is finding foster homes for adult dogs, said President and CEO Sharon Harvey. [Cleveland Animal Protective League]

Some animal shelters are in need of foster families for their animals as intake approaches pre-pandemic levels.

The number of animals being brought into the Cleveland Animal Protective League is on the rise, said President and CEO Sharon Harvey. That’s in part due to the temporary suspension of past programs because of the pandemic, Harvey said, such as the Trap Neuter Return program that helps to control community cat populations.

“We did lose some progress we’d made with programs like trap, neuter, return, for community cats,” Harvey said. “When we had to stop spaying and neutering, we had more cats on the street breeding.”

Another factor contributing to the shift is the lifting of eviction protections put in place earlier in the pandemic, Harvey said. Evictions are a frequent cause for animal intake in Cleveland, she said, but those numbers went down as a result of the eviction moratorium, which had been in place for much of the last two years.

“We know that people are losing their homes at a higher rate than they did before, because some of the protections that were provided to them when some of the COVID-19 benefits were in place have been withdrawn,” Harvey said. “That has always been a reason for surrender, but we are seeing more people coming forward. I don’t know that I would call it statistically significant, but it certainly has been noticeable by our team.”

The shelter is working to rebuild its volunteer and foster home ranks, too, Harvey said. Those programs were also suspended or limited during the pandemic,  and now they need to find more people to help out as intake numbers and foster needs increase.

“We are in desperate need of foster homes for adult dogs right now. That tends to be our biggest challenge,” Harvey said. “Every single day of the year, we have animals in our shelter that really need a real home of their own and not this temporary stopover that we provide them with.”

The pandemic also has brought awareness to areas where the APL might improve their services, Harvey said. That includes working with people who are looking to rehome their pets to find a new family without having to bring the pet to the shelter at all, she said.

If a new home can be found and the pet is brought there directly, she said, the results are better overall.

“If there are other ways that people can find new homes for their pets, that is not only better for the pet but it also allows shelters to reserve their limited resources, which is cage space, to help animals who truly do not have other options,” Harvey said. “We’ve just been through a renovation. Our facility is lovely, but it’s not home.”

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