Homeless animals in the greater Princeton area are not being left behind as the coronavirus pandemic wages on.
SAVE, a nonprofit animal shelter in Montgomery Township, is continuing its mission of protecting homeless cats and dogs while navigating through the pandemic.
Currently, the shelter is housing less than 50 cats and dogs. SAVE’s facility has the capacity to care for 100 homeless animals at a time.
The shelter has 15 full-time and part-time staff members and is utilizing only a limited number of volunteers as SAVE continues its operations.
“We are seven days a week and right now we are staff only. The reason we made the decision to go staff only was to keep volunteers safe, which we felt was our responsibility,” said Heather Achenbach, executive director of SAVE. “We still do utilize specific volunteers to walk dogs such as dog handlers.”
She added that even with staff only the shelter is strictly enforcing social distancing measures.
“We have moved to appointment only for approved applications and are managing the traffic through the shelter. We are basically allowing only one family in at a time,” Achenbach said. “So our need for volunteers does diminish. If we need help we will call volunteers on add need basis.”
According to Director of Operations Jill Van Tuyl, the shelter had to cancel all offsite adoption and programming events during the coronavirus outbreak.
“At SAVE we are proud to say we have a very high turnover rate for our animals. For the most part our animals are not long term, we have a very good adoption rate for cats and dogs,” Achenbach said. “We are still networking and helping surround shelters in need of help.”
SAVE has several dogs with foster families and is seeking adopters for the animals during this time.
“We have a handful of dogs already in fosters that were treated for heartworms. They are in need of calm home environments. We have really prioritized our time for adopters,” Achenbach said. “We want these animals in permanent homes. One of our biggest concerns is once it it safe to enjoy outside, go to work and stop social distancing that we may see an influx in animal returns.”
According to Achenbach, SAVE is very concerned that if they end up putting all of their dogs out to foster families the dogs will come back at the same time and the shelter will not have room.
The shelter is an adoption and volunteer center that consists of six core programs of rescue, shelter, health and welfare, spay/neuter, adoption, and humane education with focuses on the rehabilitation and successful placement of treatable and adoptable animals, according to the organization.
SAVE has had to cancel various core programs due to the pandemic.
The organization also had to furlough their communications director because of core programs being canceled.
SAVE is also currently not accepting household item donations such as sheets, towels and used pet beds.
However, Achenbach and Tuyl stress that the shelter is in desperate need of wet food for the cats and dogs.
“Litter, toys are nice and anything for kittens is appreciated,” Achenbach said. “One of the challenges we are having is that all of our supply orders are heavily delayed. That means medications we need on hand all the time are delayed. Another challenge is fundraising which is down because we have had to cancel key events.”
She added that there was fear that SAVE would not be able to be open and fulfill its mission.
“I do not think people understand that our staff is just as scared as the medical staffs and those on the frontline. Managing staff fear has been another big challenge for us,” Achenbach said.
Tuyl added that despite the staff’s fear they are still coming to work to aid the homeless animals.
For more information about SAVE, adoptions or donations, visit www.savehomelessanimals.org.