Over the last few days, COVID-19 has dramatically touched all of our lives. Like you, those of us here at the Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society International have had to modify our routines and schedules. Children are home from school. Family members and friends who may be more vulnerable to the virus are on all of our minds. We’re worried about the animals, those who live with us and those we help. We are all living with all the uncertainties of this terrible moment.
But if you support the HSUS and HSI as a donor, friend or partner, my colleagues and I want you to know that our work continues and is ramping up in several key areas. We continue to support shelter and rescue groups all across the country as we come to terms with how things are changing, at least for now, while hoping that these mitigation efforts will mean that we can return to normal as soon as possible. In the case of our direct care facilities and post-deployment responsibilities for animals we’ve helped to rescue, we’re taking steps—and exploring how—to ensure the proper care and safety of animals in our charge. We are reaching out to emergency managers all across the country to see how we can be part of the solution and to ensure access to critical functions such as veterinary care.
We are continuing our work to the greatest possible extent. Our programs and campaigns staff continue to pursue their priorities. Our lobbying specialists continue to press our legislative agenda (without personal contact). Our attorneys continue to prepare their briefs and petitions. Our communications team continues to make the case for helping animals through every available media channel. And our operations teams are doing everything possible to enable and sustain our ability to keep doing what you expect from us—and what we expect from ourselves—to help animals in need, even in a difficult time.
We’ve made strong investments in reaching the public with accurate information about the risk of human-to-animal transmission of the virus, a subject that’s caused a lot of anxiety among pet owners and others. We’ve placed vital content about COVID-19 on our website to help those with companion animals at home.
We’re laser-focused on the sector-wide threat this virus poses to the animal sheltering and rescue community around the globe. The news from the field is disconcerting. Local societies are under increasing duress. Some are closing for a few days. Some are canceling events and other outreach activities. Some are appealing to the public for heightened adoptions and fostering support. It’s a sector-wide emergency and with our colleagues and partners in the broader field, we’re moving quickly to coordinate plans for transfer of supplies, food and other resources to assist institutions in need, and are encouraging supporters to help pets in their community, whether through fostering, adoption or spreading the word about local shelter needs.
At the policy level, we’re amplifying our longstanding view that wildlife trafficking is a dangerous vector for the spread of diseases and viruses like COVID-19.
Finally, we’re concerned about the risks to animals in institutional settings where human services may fail or be curtailed. There is a federal bill in the United States, the PREPARED Act, which would require entities regulated under the Animal Welfare Act (zoos, commercial animal dealers and research facilities, for example) to develop contingency plans for the safe evacuation and care of animals in an emergency or disaster situation. Like the PETS Act passed after Hurricane Katrina, this measure is a marker of increasing social concern for animals and the high public demand for policies that protect them. This too is on our agenda.
In light of COVID-19, we stand, all of us, on a very different landscape, and those of us working in animal protection have a special burden in advocating for the billions of animals whose fates are intertwined with our own in this trying time. They are not aware of and do not understand the threat. That makes it all the more vital that we stand together, and strongly, in their defense.