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Animal welfare needs see surge too

  • Kyra Crovo reaches out for foster dog Onyx with her boyfriend Noah Glenshaw, right, at the Glenshaw home in Lyme, N.H., on Wednesday, April 8, 2020. Jake Glenshaw holds Onyx's leash while his mother Elizabeth Glenshaw watches. The family is fostering the dog for the Upper Valley Humane Society. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Nikki Grimes, executive director of the Upper Valley Humane Society in Enfield, N.H. holds her dog JJ at the animal shelter on Wednesday, April 8, 2020. During the coronavirus pandemic, the facility is closed to the public with most of their animals in foster care. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Oynx is sctatched behind the ear by Jake Glenshaw, of Lyme, N.H., on Wednesday, April 8, 2020. The Glenshaw family is fostering Oynx for the Upper Valley Humane Society. Elizabeth Glenshaw Jake's mother looks on. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 4/8/2020 9:06:45 PM
Modified: 4/9/2020 12:15:23 PM

ENFIELD — As businesses close and residents around the Upper Valley face mounting financial pressure following the new coronavirus outbreak, local animal shelters are feeling the effects.

“We’re scrambling a little,” Upper Valley Humane Society Executive Director Nikki Grimes said in an interview Wednesday.

She paused before adding, “OK. We’re scrambling a lot.”

The Enfield-based animal shelter has had to close its doors to the public following Gov. Chris Sununu’s stay-at-home order last month which closed non-essential businesses to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. The decision means UVHS, which has a staff of 16, can’t offer any adoptions for the time being.

But Grimes said the shelter is beginning to see another outcome as well: an increase in people surrendering — or asking to surrender — their pets, putting a strain on UVHS’ resources.

“It started as soon as layoffs began in the restaurant industry,” Grimes said, adding that the problem is one the shelter also had to face during the 2008 recession. “Since then we’ve had to put in place more programs.”

Due to the increase, the shelter is accepting pets only on an emergency basis, which includes cases where an owner is too sick to care for a pet, or an owner dies. They aren’t accepting pets from people who are looking to surrender their cats or dogs because of financial issues, Grimes said, but the shelter will try to work with them, offering free food or cat litter.

She said the facility, which has 28 kennels, has also had to rely heavily on foster care. UVHS has over 30 pets now, 28 of which are in foster care, and the remainder of which have been recently surrendered to the shelter.

But the influx in pets isn’t the only thing causing a financial burden on the facility. Grimes said 80% of UVHS’ revenue comes from private donations, but many of those have slowed amid drops in the stock market and growing concerns on how the virus will affect the economy in the future.

The shelter’s administrative members are now almost entirely focused on trying to raise donations. Grimes said they have enough now to operate through the end of June, but she thinks the effect on UVHS’ finances will last longer than that.

“If we go into a recession, there’s going to be a long-term influx of animals coming in as people struggle financially. I’m not looking at this as a couple of months,” she said.

UVHS isn’t the only Upper Valley facility feeling the effects of the virus.

In Claremont, the Sullivan County Humane Society, a cat-only shelter with capacity for 40 animals, has had to close to the public and allows appointment-only adoptions following the outbreak of the virus.

The shelter’s volunteer director, Cheryl Koenig, said they have started to see an increase in people surrendering their pets — including one Dartmouth College student who had to leave two cats behind when the campus closed to students — but they expect many more over the coming months.

Koenig hopes people will try to keep their pets.

“Our operating expenses are going up,” she said.

On top of that, the shelter has seen a decrease in donations and they’ve already had to cancel three fundraisers due to the virus.

One of the shelter’s biggest concerns is that veterinarians are only able to see animals for essential reasons, which don’t include spaying and neutering. The facility has already had to cancel two clinics to spay and neuter around 100 cats and one for over 20 dogs. Koenig said the shelter is worried about the long-term effect that might have on their resources.

“We’re going into kitten season. Now is the time to be trapping and fixing stray cats,” she said. “We’re expecting this summer to get inundated with kittens.”

Even as shelters around the area struggle, there are people in the community who are eager ease their burden, Grimes said. She pointed to Curt Jacques, who owns West Lebanon Feed and Supply, and who has been donating cat and dog food to UVHS throughout the shutdown.

“We’ve been around long enough to know that’s just what we do,” Jacques said in an interview Wednesday.

He’s not sure how many pounds of food his store has donated so far, but he said he expects they’ll need upward of 2,000 pounds by the end of June.

Others, like Lyme resident Elizabeth Glenshaw, are helping by taking in foster animals. Glenshaw, who owns an investment firm and is married to a health care worker, said she and her family took in Onyx, a large 3-year-old Mastiff mix from UVHS last week.

“He’s the cutest lovebug. He thinks he’s a lap dog,” she said Wednesday, adding that her three children — two of whom are home from college — love their foster pet.

She said the family decided to foster Onyx to help out the workers at the shelter and give themselves something to take their mind off the virus.

“You want to be helpful but you aren’t sure how to be helpful in isolation,” Glenshaw said. “I felt like it was just our little part to do.”

Anna Merriman can be reached at amerriman@vnews.com or 603-727-3216.

Correction

The Sullivan County Humane Society is at 14 Tremont St. in Claremont.  An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the municipality where it is located.




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