TEXT BY LAURA CHAVARRIA, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, NASHVILLE HUMANE ASSOCIATION
Animal sheltering can be difficult, y’all.
But it’s also one of the most fulfilling careers on the face of the planet. Who wouldn’t want to play with puppies and kitties all day and be the voice for the voiceless? (True confessions: Cuddling the animals is just one little part of our jobs at Nashville Humane Association!)
March 2020 was the beginning of the end for what we used to know as animal sheltering. An EF3 tornado ripped through our Middle Tennessee city leaving 25 people dead and many animals displaced and injured. Then in just a week’s time, we were also battling the challenges brought on by COVID-19.
How do we continue to save lives and get animals into loving, forever homes when people are not leaving their houses? We had to immediately innovate and be creative because our job never ever stops.
We turned to virtual methods to reach out to our community and provide animal love during such a tumultuous time. These digital approaches ranged from adoptive parents meeting their potential animal via a Zoom meet and greet, to livestreaming adoptable animals on our website and social platforms.
As other businesses slowed down during the pandemic, our workload and customer numbers skyrocketed. Folks were home regularly, and they were yearning to have animal companionship.
Within the first week of safer-at-home orders, we received over 1,000 foster applications. We did not have enough animals to enter every foster home. WHAT A WONDERFUL PROBLEM TO HAVE! Entering the coronavirus crisis, we had approximately 500 foster families. Now we are nearing the 2,000-family mark.
We also have a very elite group called “Foster to Forever,” otherwise known as “Foster Failures.” (We appreciate the positive spin of the first name!) The group is comprised of special people who chose to adopt their furry foster. Approximately 40% of our foster families end up adopting and becoming “Foster to Forever” members!
Nashville Humane Association has a brick and mortar facility, but current affairs have shown us that we can rely more heavily on our foster families. Fostering results in families’ gaining more information about the animals’ true personalities in a home environment. And seeing our ranks of families grow has also shown us that animals have magical healing powers and can unite humans during an anxiety-riddled time.
A curbside adoption success: Georgia was the first dog adopted utilizing NHA’s innovative virtual meet and greets.
This tiny kitten was one of many neonate animals that was scooped up and raised by a loving foster home.
NHA also provides safety-net care to their homeless community. Pictured is a homeless veteran and his dog at a homeless camp.
All photos courtesy of NHA.