Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is unsure whether animals can contract COVID-19, they are still suffering as a result of the pandemic — shelters, rescue organizations and pet owners have struggled to maintain supplies, especially food and medical provisions, for their furry friends during the past few months.
“It’s mostly getting the animals to the veterinarian. The vets are very expensive ... People just don’t have the money right now, and the animals suffer,” said Bobbi Giordano of Bobbi and the Strays in Glendale.
Giordano noted the financial struggles many pet owners are facing during the pandemic, especially those who were laid off or find themselves out of work and can’t afford their animal’s expenses. She herself had temporarily shut down her animal rescue organization and found herself taking in a few extra furry friends from those who couldn’t care for them during the pandemic, but says the nonprofit is still doing well.
“We’re doing OK, luckily. We’ve received a few food donations,” she said.
In an effort to assist pet owners across the borough experiencing similar struggles, acting Queens Borough President Sharon Lee partnered with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals on June 18 to donate 66,900 pounds of dog and cat food across 14 Queens community-based organizations.
“In addition to the unprecedented challenges the COVID-19 pandemic has created for people, it is also putting animals at risk by straining essential owner and shelter resources,” said Michelle Villagomez, senior director of NYC legislation at the ASPCA.
The animal rescue organization launched a $5 million COVID-19 Relief & Recovery Initiative at the end of March in response to the increased struggle of vulnerable pet owners to secure food and veterinary care during the pandemic.
Commonpoint Queens’ Samuel Field Center in Little Neck is one of the area organizations to receive the donation. A spokesperson from the social services organization reported an increase in pet food requests at its food pantry since the pandemic began.
“It has been a blessing to provide groceries and meals for so many of our vulnerable community members over the course of this pandemic, many of whom have pets and have struggled to both afford and physically go out and acquire food supplies for these important members of their families,” said the spokesperson.
On June 17, Assemblymember Rebecca Seawright (D-Manhattan) held an event to discuss the struggle shelters and animal nonprofits face to keep their doors open, stating funds have dried up and contributions have slowed down due to widespread unemployment in the state and across the country. She announced that the American Humane Society would donate $1 million to shelters across the U.S. through its Feed the Hungry program.
“Right now many animal shelters and rescue groups are struck financially because their funding has declined. When you have so many people out of work, it translates to no food on their table, translates to them not being able to pay for their mortgages and household expenses from cleaners to diapers for a baby — everything under the sun,” said national Feed the Hungry program spokesperson Jean Shafiroff. “The animals are also affected because when people can’t afford to pay for their animals, they may end up in a shelter.”