Webinar presenters Madeline Bernstein, Scott Page, Scott Giacoppo, and Trevor Whipple answered a number of your questions after their presentation, Planning Ahead: Law Enforcement’s Response to Animal-Related Calls for Service during COVID-19. Here are just a few of their responses.
Audience Question: As the COVID-19 virus wades on, what are some of the biggest concerns each of you feel we should be anticipating as we move forward? What should we be anticipating next for our organizations? Ashley, do you want to start with that one?
Ashley Mauceri: That’s a great question. Scott maybe since you’ve been in touch with Animal Control Officers from across the country, you might want to talk about next what we’re anticipating.
Scott Giacoppo: Yeah, that is a really good question. Ashley, thank you. We have been talking to people about it. One of the biggest fears, what people are really fearing is going to happen, as I mentioned when I spoke earlier, is an influx of animals into the shelter. Again with the homelessness going up, joblessness going up, people falling ill people not being able to take care of their pets for whatever reason. There’s a big fear that animals are going to be coming into the shelter in droves and that’s why if you look at a lot of shelters around the country, you’re seeing a large number of people really pushing adoption and foster care because we want to get those shelters empty. We really want to have room for those animals if they do come in, so I would say that that’s probably the biggest concern.
JCH: Anybody else who wants to comment or do shall we move on to the next question?
Madeline Bernstein: Well, I would just say the thing that scares me the most is that my staff starts to get sick because as essential workers they are going to work and we’re doing everything we can to keep them safe. And just making sure that you have a deep bench. Schedule you know as little as you have to and have people alternate and because for me, that would be the biggest fear.
Audience Question: Can you share the resources you mentioned about resources for civilians to get training on how to help with stray animals? Can you expand on that? I can’t remember who talked about that. Ashley, do you know?
Ashley Mauceri: Oh, you know what? It may have been Scott for preparedness in case something happens to them. Scott Giacoppo: Yeah and Chris if you wouldn’t mind, I did send another link for the full pet preparedness plan that was created by Best Friends Animal Society. The other thing we are going to be launching within the next two weeks or so is a brief video on how dispatchers or call takers can coach members of the public into helping them identify who the owner of the lost dog is. That’s something that we’re currently working on now and it’s just a matter of customer service. You know, we got a call from someone saying well Animal Control said they’re not coming to pick up a dog that’s running down the street. Are you saying just leave him in the street? That’s not the case and there are things people can do, you know, take a picture of the dog. Post it on nextdoor.com, Facebook. Like I said earlier people when they realize their dog is out they’re going to start running up and down the street screaming the dog’s name.
Scott Giacoppo: Apologies. Yes, there are tips and tricks. Right now, we do have that if you go to the best friends website or link that I sent over to Christina and we will be posting that as well as look forward to in the next couple of weeks a video for call takers and dispatchers on how to coach members of the public.
Audience Question: We’re hearing that there is an increase in domestic violence issues during the pandemic. How are all of you finding ways to reach out to the community so they know they have a safe place to turn to or reach out to if they need help especially in this time of isolation where the victims are often isolated at home with their perpetrators? Can anybody talk to that?
Ashley Mauceri: So I think probably most of the panelists can speak to that but I know that Chief Whipple has done quite a lot of work in terms of connecting with other law enforcement agencies throughout Vermont, so he may be able to speak to how they are working together to support DV victims.
Trevor Whipple: Yeah, thanks, Ashley. And we have we’ve seen a lot of public service announcements. You know Scott mentioned nextdoor.com. We have a service here in New England called the Front Porch Forum which is similar to next door, Facebook a lot of social media outreach to let folks know that if they need assistance the traditional domestic violence reporting guidelines that we have, but it’s even more important now because many times somebody that’s been suffering abuse would have incidental contact or their normal day where they don’t anymore. So a lot of publicity a lot of social media are the big things right now.
Audience Question: Some rescues are continuing to adopt or import animals for adoption. Isn’t this a bad idea?
Ashley Mauceri: Madeline, may I kick that to you?
Madeline Bernstein: Yeah. Well, I think it’s a bad idea because we have plenty of animals that need homes. We did have some animals coming through LAX because we’re involved in a lot of import-export issues at LAX. Animals were still coming in, Pomeranians, Frenchies from Ukraine. All these other animals were still coming in. At this point, the CDC and USDA are not stopping the imports of those animals. I think it’s a bad idea. I think as long as there’s a single animal in a shelter who can have a home here that those imports should stop. Also you, really, at a certain point, don’t know how this disease is going to mutate, what may happen and what you may be importing when you start to bring animals in from other countries or over the border and in some cases from state-to-state. California, for example, there’s you know, you have to register in order to bring an animal across state lines. Not that anyone does. But you may also get an animal that’s imported that may hurt other animals like canine flu that wiped out a lot of animals that came in through a rescue. It was very problematic in terms of shelter. No dog had any immunity for those animals. So I think we should be very careful now. Really careful now about what we’re doing.
Audience Question: I love it when our Justice Clearinghouse community shares tips. John shared and John is from Canada, check all of your local distilleries as they are now providing hand sanitizers here in British Columbia, Canada. Most of them are providing free to first responders and I think the sheriff mentioned something similar about a distillery that you had a working relationship. Am I right?
Sam Page: Yes, ma’am. And we’re seeing a lot more of the smaller distillers. A lot of smaller distilleries in North Carolina. So, you know, if you just go online and Google, you know, that’s how we found this distillery and it happened to be it was about two counties away from my County. I know the sheriff up there. And so anyway, yes, they were very reasonable and they were FDA-approved to go ahead and start producing it. So they did that and the other thing is just like the mask. A lot of people are hunting for the masks and stuff in the wipes and stuff like that and the different things but, you know our prison system stepped up and said, you know, they sew and they converted to now making I think about a hundred thousand masks for first responders in law enforcement across the state. Just get on the internet. I mean, there’s a lot of businesses out there that are stepping in. Some are donating. Today, one of our representatives from our local power company brought in some hand sanitizer and the additional masks but they had that I assumed that they had on-site that they made available to us.
Audience Question: Next question as all of you know, a lot of people have certainly lost their jobs. There are food banks across the country, but what about pets? Are there pet food banks? Are you hearing about agencies that are stepping in and helping pet owners? What are all of you recommending?
Ashley Mauceri: Scott, I know you have been working with colleagues of mine here at HSUS and other fabulous agencies on this issue specifically. May I send that to you?
Scott Giacoppo: Absolutely. Yeah. It is something that we’ve been working on with HSUS, Best Friends Animal Society, the ASPCA, Greater good. There are a number of pet food manufacturers that have donated large amounts of food, and those agencies have worked in coordination to identify where needs are, where it needs the most and we’re coordinating with large-scale food drops. Now one of the problems that had been seen is that like toilet paper, people have been hoarding pet food. A lot of the pet food manufacturers are seeing a dramatic increase in the numbers of retail sale sales orders. If you go to your local supermarket or Walmart or anything? It’s weird. You see bare shelves where pet food used to be or limited or you can’t find your pet food. So that’s you know, that’s also something that we’re contending with but we have been doing tens of thousands of pounds of pet food have been donated around the country. What I would recommend is to reach out to the local animal shelters and see if they have setup. What we’re doing is we’re dropping it with the actual animal shelter rather than setting up our own. We’re working with and I know I believe you guys are as well Ashley working with local groups who have pet food pantries and we’re helping to subsidize some of that food needs.
Ashley Mauceri: And if you do find yourself in a situation where your agency needs some support with that, please try and get in touch with us and we will do whatever we can to try and help you.
Audience Question: How has COVID-19 impacted safe houses for domestic violence victims specifically some domestic violence shelters don’t have a place to keep animals but work with shelters, but given the fact that shelters aren’t open to the public now, how are they still taking in animals or placing animals with fosters?
Madeline Bernstein: Again, this is part of like creating the program in advance of a pandemic so everyone knows that the program exists in that you can take the animals. One of the quick things to do is to let all the DV shelters know because they can take animals and the ones that could take only one or two obviously are maxed out and hotels can’t take them because the DV shelters are full so there are hotels. You want to let the DV shelter know that there is a way to get the animal out and part of emptying out the shelter in advance of the pandemic is to make sure that we had cage space available for these animals. So getting the word out Public Service, social media, letting the DV shelters know that there is help so that there is no, you know, sometimes an abuse victim can become a homicide victim because they don’t want to leave their pets with the abuser. So it’s really important to know where these animals can be housed. We’re housing them in our area but you know, this is you’ve got to set this up all over the country and that’s why download the materials and see if you can start to get it going, even now.
Click Here to Watch a Recording of Planning Ahead: Law Enforcement’s Response to Animal-Related Calls for Service during COVID-19.