Humane Society fares well despite COVID-19

Larry Savage
| The Gainesville Sun

There is something about having a pet that helps brighten a day, relieves stress and brings love to a family. 

At the Humane Society of North Central Florida, the adoptions are at 90% of where they would ordinarily be in a non-pandemic environment. An impressive rate considering how COVID-19 has made life more challenging.

But make no mistake, area residents love their dogs, cats, puppies and kittens.

“We have been presently surprised by how many adoptions we have been able to do,” said Margot DeConna, director of advancement at the Humane Society of North Florida. “Since March 16, when our shelter closed for two months, we have done 1,000 adoptions.”

Those interested in adopting cannot just go to the Humane Society on Northwest Sixth Street and pick their dog or cat. First, go to the Humane Society of North Central Florida’s website and choose your pet online.

You then click the link to apply for adoption and submit your email address, and someone will get in touch with you. You must make an appointment to visit.

If interested in adopting a kitten, click on the link in the Cats & Kittens section of the website, and put in the time to visit in a Google calendar format. Kittens are only available Thursday through Sunday.

“They can sign up to any available time slot to visit kittens,” DeConna said. “With everything happening and the whole world coming to a stop, I’m surprised at how many people wanted to adopt animals at this time.”

Executive Director Heather Thomas said she is somewhat surprised, but said the outpouring of interest in the pets only confirms to her the love this area has for the four-legged friends.

“We live in a place that loves animals,” said Thomas, who worked for Gainesville Pet Rescue for 10 years prior to coming to Humane Society in 2014. “We live in a really amazing community that loves animals. That’s why we have been so successful during COVID.”

The Humane Society of North Central Florida was created in 2018 as leadership of Alachua County Humane Society, Gainesville Pet Rescue and Helping Hands Pet Rescue decided to join together. It is a limited intake, no-kill animal rescue center.

“Our full staff is back at work,” DeConna said. “We employ over 50 people, and we have low-cost medical procedures, such as routine vaccines, heartworm tests, flea control and deworming, along with microchipping. We also spay or neuter pets. Our medical staff is back. Everyone has been back since May. We are going to counties like Levy, Dixie County, Union County, Suwannee County, to find pets who need help.”

DeConna said the number of cases for the medical staff has increased dramatically since the pandemic began. She attributes that to the lower cost of care.

“It’s great because we want to help the community,” she said.

Thomas said with the return of University of Florida students, she expects more volunteers.

One of approximately 112 nonprofits working in Alachua County, the Humane Society recently received the most donations at the annual Amazing Give, with 457 for a total $42,080.

“We did tremendously well, exceeded our goal at $40,000,” DeConna said. “We live in a very pet-friendly community, and have a large donor base to help us with Amazing Give. I’m proud of the success. To raise $1.4 million in a pandemic, that’s incredible. I’m very happy with the Community Foundation in supporting our 112 organizations.”

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