The La Plata County Humane Society is in need of help after having to lay off nearly half of its staff because of the coronavirus outbreak, with significant revenue losses expected in coming weeks.
About two weeks ago, the Humane Society’s adjoining Thrift Store had to close because of the pandemic, resulting in 18 people losing their jobs, said Chris Nelson, director of animal services.
“That decision was not taken lightly,” Nelson said. “We’re all kind of a crazy big family over here.”
With the store closed, the animal shelter is now bracing itself for the loss of sales. The Thrift Store accounts for about $400,000 of the animal shelter’s $1.1 million annual operating budget.
“The Thrift Store is our No. 1 source of revenue,” Nelson said. “We live and breathe based on that revenue.”
To brace itself for the revenue shortage, the animal shelter laid off three part-time staff and one full-time employee. A separate staff member was leaving the job for other reasons and another had to resign, so the shelter is down to six employees.
“Those are all the day-to-day folks that did all the hard work,” Nelson said.
To deal with the recent challenges, the shelter has stopped services not deemed critical, such as vaccines and neutering. It has also limited its operational hours from noon to 4 p.m. and transferred most of its adoption services online.
People interested in adopting can see available dogs and cats at the Humane Society’s website at lpchumanesociety.org and fill out an application if they want to adopt. Then, they can visit the animal at the shelter by appointment.
Nelson said people are still adopting animals, but it has slowed down. During the first week of the outbreak, the shelter was adopting out about 12 animals a day. This week, however, that number has gone down to about three to four a day.
“People are at home and think it’s a good time to get a pet,” he said.
The Humane Society is also still accepting stray animals found within county limits. Nelson said people should not donate items to the thrift store at this time because there are no staff members to help sort the items.
Through it all, Nelson said the dogs and cats at the shelter are getting plenty of love from staff. He said the kennel is operating at about 70% of capacity.
Nelson said despite the challenges, the shelter should be able to weather the storm, but projects the shelter budgeted for, such as remodeling the outdated building, may be impacted.
“We do have reserves to fall back on,” he said. “And we’re looking into special emergency grants, but those are competitive.”
People interested in helping can donate or buy items from a wish list for the animals. For more information, visit the shelter’s website.