Other accomplishments include expanded community support and increased public operating hours
NORFOLK, VA – Despite shutdowns and operational changes caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, in 2020 Norfolk Animal Care and Adoption Center (NACC) increased its total animal live release rate for cats and dogs to nearly 90 percent, up from 75 percent in 2019, an increase of 15 percentage points. Live release rate for all animals also improved to 87 percent, up from 72 percent in 2019 - also a 15 percent increase.
Bureau Manager Michelle Dosson attributed the increase to several factors – expansion of the shelter’s dog fostering program, adding adult cats to its existing kitten fostering program, and several adoption programs and promotions to help animals find homes.
Dosson also pointed to a dramatic decrease (nearly 70 percent) in the number of euthanized animals as a significant component of the shelter’s improved live release statistics.
“We worked a lot differently,” Dosson said. She pointed to the shelter’s shift to provide support and resources to pet owners, particularly a comprehensive resource guide that offers assistance ranging from discounted vaccinations and veterinary care to behavior training and deployment fostering. This shift allowed the shelter to support and enable owners to safely be part of the rehoming process themselves.
“Historically, we have relied on ourselves for life-saving but now we are engaging with our community more than ever,” Dosson said. “They are the biggest piece of the puzzle.”
Dosson also stressed “NACC staff embraced change, they thrived under change. We didn’t have volunteers for six months (because of COVID-19 safety concerns) so staff had to step in and provide that workforce. They did not stop working throughout the pandemic. We restructured the way we did almost everything.”
That included providing a higher level of service to the community, Dosson said. The shelter increased operating hours by more than 44 percent in 2020 to provide more opportunity for potential adopters to meet animals. It added virtual visitation options and, after re-establishing in-person visits, offered online scheduling through WaitWhile.
NACC continues to work diligently to expand its list of partner and rescue groups. In 2020, NACC accepted more than 200 animals at risk for euthanasia transferred from other shelters. “We were not only successful with our own adoptions, we assisted other shelters that weren’t able to open for adoption or were at capacity,” Dosson said.
An increase in animal tracing helped lower the total number of animals coming into the shelter. The goal of animal tracing is to bypass NACC admission by returning lost animals to their rightful owners. NACC worked in partnership with the Animal Protection Unit of the Norfolk Police Department and animal protection officers from around the region to accomplish this goal. Leaders in these divisions talk daily to support the mission of saving 100 percent of healthy and treatable animals while protecting public safety.
Finally, NACC staff worked on changes to provide additional comfort and support to both animals and humans in their building. Renovations to dog kennels and cat condos allow staff to connect two enclosures, giving dogs and cats more room to move, improving herd health, and providing staff greater safety when cleaning. The addition of a cat colony room allows multiple cats to live together, providing a larger living space and more social interaction. Reconfiguration of existing space within the shelter allowed for more office space and a break room for staff and volunteers.
As always, volunteers provided crucial support to the facility. NACC was able to welcome volunteers into the shelter again in July thanks to a new online scheduling tool that allowed staff to maintain capacity and social distancing requirements.
Finally, NACC’s Pet Pantry, supported by the non-profit Friends of the Norfolk Animal Care Center, provided 6,000 pounds of free food and supplies to pet owners who needed help.
“2020 certainly brought challenges, but it also brought opportunity,” Dosson said. “We thank all those in Hampton Roads who supported us and our shelter. We’re looking forward to even greater success in 2021.” To find ways to help, visit www.norfolk.gov/nacc.