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UGA graduate student Brielle Hill holds a puppy from the Athens Area Humane Society at Magnolias Bar in Athens, Georgia, on Monday, Aug. 26, 2019. To celebrate National Dog Day, Magnolias partnered with the Athens Area Humane Society to host a percentage night, raffle and adoptable puppies. (Photo/Taylor Gerlach)

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Athens Area Humane Society has worked to address the needs of its animals while following safety precautions.

The humane society is now accepting animals from shelters on a case-by-case basis to protect staff from excessive visitors, said Jed Kaylor, shelter director at the humane society.

“We are running on a basic crew to help answer phones and to deal with issues that arise with any of our pets,” Kaylor said. “A lot of shelters either fostered or adopted out their housed pets, so we did the same, therefore we are currently very low on adoptable pets due to social distancing.”

In order to follow social distancing guidelines, much of the humane society’s staff has to work from home. This meant the animals needed to find new places to stay, such as foster homes, to ensure they get the correct care.

In an update on its Instagram page, the humane society stated it is trying to get as many animals into homes as quickly as possible. The humane society is now encouraging patrons to schedule their visits ahead of time, Kaylor said.

All volunteering and community events have been canceled for the rest of the month, so the shelter has been working to ensure its animals will have a good home where they will be able to get affection and care. The adoption center is offering discounted fees to get the animals into homes faster.

“With people being home, pets are getting more time with their people,” Kaylor said.

The shelter has placed the majority of its animals into homes for the time being through foster care, with one or two animals remaining in the shelter, Kaylor said. Employees are watching the remaining animals and advertising them on social media.

Kaylor said the existing foster base “was hearty enough” that the humane society did not need to find additional fosters, which made the transition for most animals relatively smooth. However, if the humane society needs new fosters, it will switch to video calling rather than in-person home inspections to follow social distancing standards.

Kaylor said the halting of social interaction and visitations has caused adoption rates to drop. Intake in shelters has also decreased due to staffing concerns.

Kaylor said most animals have found foster homes, and the few left in the shelter receive attention three times a day from employees. Employees answer calls at the clinic and adoption center from 9 a.m. to noon, while others work at home to keep as many animals as they can healthy and happy and ensure other shelters do not euthanize healthy pets.

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