Dear San Francisco SPCA community,

We’ve all been sheltering in place to slow the spread of the COVID-19 for months now, and yet so much has changed.  In response to current sheltering in place directives the shelters across the state have had to severely curtail business-as-usual operations. At the San Francisco SPCA we are doing our absolute best to continue saving lives during this time of crisis, yet the restrictions have profoundly impacted animals and our staff, volunteers and community. And the pressure continues to build. Kitten season looms as the weather warms, pet owners are deferring routine veterinary care, and a growing number of animals may soon be relinquished to shelters to join those already hoping to find forever homes.

The public response has made one thing clear:  people need animals as much as animals need people.

I am very excited to share that, in a victory for shelter animals, the California Department of Public Health has shared important shelter protocols and legal guidelines proposed and written by the SF SPCA. Through the hard work of Chief Counsel Brandy Kuentzel and Senior VP Dr. Jeannine Berger (DACVB, DACAW, CAWA,) these important shelter community resources explain how to safely and legally save animals lives during COVID-19. These protocols and FAQs explain how to enable animal lifesaving work while adhering to all medical and safety protocols for COVID-19. Shelters once struggling to determine what is permissible and essential will now have a roadmap to protect the public and staff, for how to conduct adoptions, transport, foster, and handle returned animals exposed to COVID-19. California shelters can now access these protocols via links from the California Department of Public Health and on our website.

In this fight against the pandemic, we have found another bunker, one that all California shelters can lean on to continue their lifesaving work. Among other essential activities, shelters will be able to safely transport animals, make foster and adoption matches between animals and the people who need those connections desperately. Now more than ever, we must continue to advocate for homeless pets and provide a critical safety net for the burgeoning number of animals whose lives depend on us.

The SF SPCA is a privately funded non-profit that exists due to the generosity of our donors. We need your support now more than ever. Please consider making a donation today to enable us to continue our important lifesaving work.

I am pleased to share that Governor Gavin Newsom just issued an update to his shelter-in-place order, clarifying that animal care facilities – including animal shelters – are categorized as essential services. Until now, the public has been confused about how to engage with vital animal services in their communities. Each animal shelter – and there are over 300 brick and mortar shelters in California – has been left to interpret the order. Today’s clarification will remove uncertainty and help shelters operate in accordance with Governor Newsom’s mandate, which will save animal lives while prioritizing the health and safety of shelter employees and the public.

We are excited that we can continue our lifesaving work as we conform to our current reality. Over that past few weeks we have seen a significant increase in requests to adopt and foster animals with the SF SPCA, as well as with our shelter partners across the state. Today’s directive helps us understand how we can move forward with activities like fostering and adoptions. Doing so will help keep families in positive spirits as they cope with social distancing guidelines. Today’s directive also lays down the framework for continuing to end animal homelessness.

The Governor’s announcement today is great news for shelters, families, and the animals we have dedicated our lives to saving. We are proud to have assisted with the development of this language and joined other animal welfare leaders to elevate the need to state officials. Our very own Brandy Kuentzel, Chief Counsel and leader of our Shelter Policy and Legal Services (Shelter PALS) Department and her team are currently working with under-resourced shelters across the state to deploy lifesaving legal support and adjust both local and state laws to create good outcomes for animals.

This Coronavirus outbreak is a marathon not a sprint, and today we just won a lap for animals in California. Please consider donating to the SF SPCA today to continue to move the ball forward.

Jennifer Scarlett, DVM

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