“Foster-cation” has become a new buzzword in the pet-rescue world (meaning foster vacation with lots of socialization) since COVID-19 became a household name. Animal shelters have had to change the way they do business out of necessity — from adoptions and medical treatment, to getting creative with fundraising.”

When Gov. Mike DeWine’s stay-at-home order went into place in late March, humane societies issued public pleas to help empty the shelters. Most facilities had to cease activities because of the stay-at-home order and social distancing, working with skeleton crews to develop safe and smart ways to move dogs.

And move dogs they did. According to Mindy Naticchioni, administrator of Cuyahoga County Animal Shelter (CCAS), nearly 60 dogs were placed into foster-cation.

“Dogs are getting family time, exercise and great socialization, and possibly a forever home, Naticchioni said.

CCAS ran out of crates due to the overwhelming public response, but not people wanting to foster.

In early April, CCAS was operating with minimal staff members overseeing duties such as daily routines, medical cases and owner returns.

Friendship APL in Elyria was also operating with limited staff, allowing only two potential adopters in the building at a time. Some of the protective league’s pre-approved adopters were having small pets delivered in a crate to their front porches.

Smaller multi-breed and breed-specific rescue organizations are feeling the impact of COVID-19 on some adoption exposure, but the bigger issue is not being able to hold traditional fundraisers.

At press time, Cleveland APL was closed, according to its executive director Sharon Harvey, with the exception of humane officer investigations and a small staff caring for about 30 animals with special or medical needs. Her team also saw witnessed the community coming together to support Cleveland APL.

With veterinary clinics asked to donate and lend gear and equipment to hospitals, no elective medical procedures are being performed, which could impact the number of litters born in the near future.

What can pet owners do during COVID-19? Include your pets in your safety plan. The Center for Disease Control has a few guidelines: have proper identification on your pet, ensure your pet’s vaccinations are updated, have a pet food surplus at home and an action plan.

Some pet owners have directives in their wills, and many have handwritten instructions visible for first responders. Some city safety departments offer a lock-box program where pet owners can share the number of pets within the home. You can also help educate people that pets do not spread COVID-19, so it’s not necessary to relinquish your pets or have them euthanized.

Other ways you can help include donating funds or in-kind items. Pet food pantries are gaining momentum in many cities. Organizations such as Neighborhood Pets Outreach and Resource Center work directly with pet owners who may be financially devastated by COVID-19. Rescues may also have volunteer needs that can be done remotely such as phone calls, social media posts and website updates. And of course, there’s foster-cationing. If you’re still working from home, consider adding a temporary, four-legged coworker to keep you company.