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Local Connection: Santa Cruz SPCA

Aptos Natural Foods has been thrilled to partner with the Santa Cruz SPCA for our Annual Block Party for the past several years. At that event, many cats and dogs have found homes! This week, we spoke to Executive Director Ali Talley and Shelter Manager Mandi Hart about their new building, how they are handling shelter and adoptions during COVID-19, and making a plan for your pet!

First things first! The Santa Cruz SPCA was founded by Santa Cruz’s first small animal veterinarian in the 1930s. It turns out that SPCA -- society for the prevention of cruelty to animals -- is a generic term, as “humane society.” The Santa Cruz SPCA is not a chapter of some great national or international SPCA, but a small, independent and local non-profit that relies on volunteerism, a few grants, a whole lot of community donations, and proceeds from its outreach programs, to do its work. The Santa Cruz SPCA is also independent from the county-run agency, Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter, but they often cooperate.

By March, the Santa Cruz SPCA had completed about 72% of its building fundraising. Bogard Construction, of whom they had wonderful things to say, had already completed about 75% of the work on their building when the shelter in place order was delivered. They had hoped for a spring opening, now that date is delayed.

The new shelter is almost six times larger than their current (1,200 square foot) building! They had outgrown the old space.

Realizing that social distancing would be totally impossible in their already packed facility, the staff and volunteers of the SCSPCA were challenged to innovate quickly under duress, and they did. Within 3 days of the order’s being announced, the majority (about 30) animals from the shelter were moved into foster homes. They are pleased to report that these animals are all thriving right now!

With that emergency addressed, the good people of the SCSPCA had some time to consider how to handle the rest of their operation.

Because people can no longer drop by to spend time in the shelter, getting to know their future pets, SCSPCA expanded its foster-to-adopt program. Through foster-to-adopt, families can get to know pets without making a lifelong commitment until they have a chance to make sure it can work out. They also use Zoom for a foster family and animal meet-and-greet, and conduct foster trainings via Zoom! They are very fortunate that 200 people signed up so far to foster animals!

The animal shelter community has a few concerns during this crisis. One, of course, is the potential that people with pets could get sick and become hospitalized. So far, this situation has not resulted in very many homeless pets. Fortunately, most people have had a plan in place for their pets. A bigger concern right now is the eventual effect of an economic recession -- typically an economic downturn is a very unstable time for pets when too many families find that they are unable to continue providing adequate care for their pets. Additionally, spring is “baby season” when litters of kittens begin showing up for adoption.

Ali and Mandi are both lifelong animal lovers. Ali has been in the shelter business for 25 years. At one time, she had hoped to become a veterinarian, but she became involved in shelters when she was in college and made a career of it. Her experience helping with a transition to a new shelter building in Silicon Valley energized her to want to come help Santa Cruz with its building transition! She loves the team here, who has supported and innovated through the current crisis.

Mandi started at the Santa Cruz SPCA as a volunteer, regularly participating in SCSPCA events. She eventually came on staff as an adoption counselor, and has now been on staff at the SCSPCA for ten years! If you asked anyone in her family what she should do for a living, they always would have said this!

It was fascinating and inspiring to talk to these two loving humans about their shelter, their response to the crisis, and their hopes for our community, and the future.

What you can do to help:

  1. Make a plan for your pet

If you have a pet at home, it is critical that you have an emergency kit for that animal with food and supplies for at least a couple weeks. Also, designate a caretaker for your pet in the event that you become unable to care for your pet for some period of time. This plan will save you a lot of worry, and save your pet from suffering from the ill effects of anxiety as well!

2. Consider donating to the Santa Cruz SPCA!

Our SPCA representatives understand that this is a difficult time economically. Any donations will go into their general operations fund. Here is their donations page!

3. Sign up to foster a pet!

So far the outpouring of support from the community has been more than sufficient for the current group of animals needing housing. But the COVID-19 crisis and economic repercussions are far from over. We need all the community support we can get. And having a loving cat or dog in your home supports you too!

4. Stay up-to-date by visiting the SPCA’s COVID-19 shelter website!

Pictured: New shelter under construction, Ember in her foster home, Melon in her foster home, Davis in his foster home, Hershey (below, in hard hat: adopted!)

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