BEST FRIENDS ANIMAL SOCIETY HOPEFUL OVER NATIONWIDE INCREASE IN PET FOSTERING

CLEARING ANIMAL SHELTERS IS KEY IN TIMES OF CRISIS
TECHNOLOGY HAS HELPED FACILITATE ADOPTIONS AND FOSTERING DURING THE CORONAVIRUS OUTBREAK

The number of people fostering pets has skyrocketed nationwide during the quarantine.  Best Friends Animal Society CEO Julie Castle says the animal welfare industry, like so many others, has been disrupted.  With increased use of technology, and more people home to care for a pet, Best Friends Animal Society has been able to move an enormous number of animals out of shelters and into temporary home—including the 70+ animals in Best Friends’ NYC location, which were homed in 30 hours.  Correspondent Maddie Orton speaks to Castle, who is hopeful that the organization’s mission to “save them all” has taken a dramatic leap forward.

ANIMAL CARE CENTERS OF NEW YORK (NYCACC) are still seeking adoptive families for homeless pets, visit their website for more information.

Aired on May 6, 2020. 

TRANSCRIPT

HI, I'M MADDIE ORTON.

THE NUMBER OF PEOPLE FOSTERING PETS HAS SKYROCKETED NATIONWIDE DURING THE QUARANTINE.

I'M SPEAKING WITH CEO OF BEST FRIENDS ANIMAL SOCIETY, JULIE CASTLE, ABOUT HOW THIS CAME TO BE AND WHAT IT MEANS FOR FUTURE ANIMAL RESCUE EFFORTS.

JULIE, THANKS SO MUCH FOR BEING HERE.

IT'S A PLEASURE.

THANKS FOR HAVING ME.

SO LET'S START WITH THIS SURPRISING SILVER LINING TO THE QUARANTINE AND THIS HORRIBLE HEALTH CRISIS, WHICH IS THAT A HUGE NUMBER OF ANIMALS ARE BEING FOSTERED AND ADOPTED DURING THIS PERIOD.

YEAH, I MEAN, IT'S JUST LIKE ANY INDUSTRY IN THIS COUNTRY.

IT'S BEEN TOTALLY DISRUPTED.

AND THAT INDUSTRY THAT I'M TALKING ABOUT IS ANIMAL WELFARE.

SHELTERS, RESCUE GROUPS, HUMANE SOCIETIES ALL OVER THE COUNTRY HAVE SEEN A HUGE DISRUPTION IN THEIR BUSINESS, AND A LOT OF IT IS PEOPLE -- THERE IS SUCH A DEMAND FOR ANIMALS RIGHT NOW.

IT'S SO COOL.

IT'S BEEN A REALLY, REALLY AMAZING MOMENT IN THE HISTORY OF OUR MOVEMENT, I THINK.

WERE YOU SURPRISED AT ALL TO SEE THE NUMBER OF REQUESTS INCREASE AS MUCH AS IT HAD, AND WHAT SORT OF INCREASE HAVE YOU SEEN?

I THINK EVERYONE HAS BEEN SURPRISED.

EVERYBODY THAT I TALK TO, ALL OF OUR COLLEAGUES, ANYBODY IN THE INDUSTRY, HAS BEEN STUNNED BY THIS.

AND I THINK NATIONWIDE WE HAVE SEEN AN INCREASE OF 795% IN FOSTERING, WHICH IS INSANE.

AND I THINK IT'S ONE OF THOSE THINGS WHERE, YOU KNOW, PEOPLE ARE AT HOME, THEY DON'T -- THEIR LIFE HAS BEEN DISRUPTED AND THEY'RE THINKING TO THEMSELVES, YOU KNOW, I'M GOING TO DO STUFF THAT I'VE ALWAYS WANTED TO DO NOW, BECAUSE I'M AT HOME AND I HAVE THE TIME TO DO IT.

AND SO I HAVE FRIENDS THAT ARE INTO THESE MEGA WORKOUT PROGRAMS AND WHAT HAVE YOU, BUT WE'RE SEEING A LOT OF PEOPLE RAISE THEIR HAND AND FOSTER FOR THE FIRST TIME.

AND THAT'S COOL, BECAUSE I THINK A LOT OF PEOPLE HAVE WANTED TO, BUT THEY DIDN'T KNOW HOW OR DIDN'T HAVE THE TIME OR, YOU KNOW, THEY DIDN'T WORK AT HOME.

AND SO NOW WE'RE SEEING A FLOOD OF PEOPLE FOSTERING AND ADOPTING LIKE NEVER BEFORE.

SO IN A STRANGE WAY, THIS TRAGEDY HAS BEEN GREAT FOR DOMESTIC PETS.

HOW HAS TECHNOLOGY HELPED TO DISRUPT THE INDUSTRY THE WAY IT'S BEEN SO FAR?

TECHNOLOGY HAS BEEN REMARKABLE FOR US.

AND THANK HEAVENS WE KIND OF HAVE THE PERFECT STORM, BECAUSE A LOT OF THESE APPS AND STUFF WERE BEING DEVELOPED LIKE DURING HURRICANE HARVEY.

YOU SAW A LOT OF APPS COME TO THE FORE.

BUT YOU'RE STARTING TO SEE PEOPLE USE TECHNOLOGY.

IT IS AN ANIMAL WELFARE RELATED, LIKE NEXT DOOR, TO HELP PLACE ANIMALS OR TAKE IN FOSTERS.

OR IF SOMEBODY IS SICK OR THEY CAN'T CARE FOR AN ANIMAL, YOU'RE SEEING THAT NETWORKING HAPPENING EVEN IN THOSE GRASSROOTS WAYS, NEIGHBORHOOD TO NEIGHBORHOOD.

AND WE'RE ALSO SEEING, YOU KNOW, APPS LIKE ADOPT AND RE-HOME PICK UP A LOT OF TRACTION LIKE THEY NEVER HAVE BEFORE.

AND ALSO OUR VET APP FOR TELEMEDICINE, THAT'S BEEN A REALLY BIG THING, TOO, BECAUSE PEOPLE CAN'T GET TO THE VET.

SO WE'RE SEEING A BIG PICKUP IN TECHNOLOGY AND THAT'S REALLY HELPED PROPEL US FORWARD IN A VERY COOL WAY.

AND IT WAS REALLY IMPORTANT TO CLEAR THE SHELTERS IN ADVANCE OF THE CORONAVIRUS OUTBREAK REALLY TAKING HOLD, RIGHT?

WHY WAS THAT?

YEAH, I MEAN I THINK IT WAS A COUPLE OF THINGS.

THE FIRST ONE WAS THE SAFETY OF OUR STAFF, AND STAFF EVERYWHERE, SHELTER WORKERS ALL OVER THE COUNTRY.

BUT ALSO, WE DIDN'T KNOW WHAT TO EXPECT.

AND I THINK IN THESE TIMES OF CRISES, THE BEST THING YOU CAN DO IS CLEAR THE SHELTERS AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE, BECAUSE YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT'S COMING NEXT.

AND THAT COULD BE A BUNCH OF NEW ANIMALS, A FLOOD OF NEW ANIMALS COMING INTO THE SYSTEM.

SO THE ENTIRE COUNTRY, THE ENTIRE SHELTERING SYSTEM BASICALLY SAID, YOU KNOW WHAT, LET'S CLEAR THE SHELTERS AND MOVE EVERYBODY OUT TO SAFETY, BECAUSE WE DON'T REALLY KNOW HOW LONG THIS IS GOING TO LAST.

PART OF THE CONCERN THERE, TOO, IS THAT DURING THE FINANCIAL CRISIS THERE WAS A HUGE INFLUX OF PEOPLE WHO HAD TO ABANDON -- NOT ABANDON, BUT SURRENDER THEIR ANIMALS TO THE SHELTER, RIGHT?

YEAH, AND WE'RE STILL WORRIED ABOUT THAT.

I HOPE IT DOESN'T HAPPEN.

WE'VE SEEN A SMALL INCREASE IN THAT NUMBER.

BUT STILL THE NET-NET IS A HUGE AMOUNT OF ANIMALS HAVE BEEN ADOPTED AND FOSTERED.

BUT CLEARING THE SHELTER TO MAKE WAY FOR ANIMALS THAT MIGHT BE SURRENDERED IS A BIG PART OF THE STRATEGY, TOO.

BECAUSE, YOU KNOW, PEOPLE TYPICALLY IN THESE SITUATIONS RESPOND BY SURRENDERING THEIR PETS BECAUSE THEY ARE UNCERTAIN ABOUT THEIR JOB, THEIR HOUSING, WHATEVER.

AND SO THAT WAS PART OF THE STRATEGY.

RIGHT.

IF YOU'RE JUST JOINING US, I'M MADDIE ORTON, I'M HERE WITH JULIE CASTLE, CEO OF BEST FRIENDS ANIMAL SOCIETY.

NOW, NEW YORK WAS ONE OF THE FIRST AREAS TO REALLY STEP UP AND SAY WE NEED TO HELP THE ANIMALS IN SHELTERS, RIGHT?

NEW YORK WAS TREMENDOUS.

NEW YORKERS ARE THE BEST.

AND I HAVE TO SAY --

THAT'S NICE, THANK YOU.

OBVIOUSLY WE HAVE A CENTER IN NEW YORK CITY, AND NEW YORK WAS ONE OF THE FIRST PLACES TO CLOSE DOWN.

WHEN ALL OF THIS HAPPENED, WE WERE IMMEDIATELY JUST INUNDATED WITH PEOPLE WANTING TO HELP.

SO MUCH SO THAT WE HAD 73 ANIMALS IN OUR CARE.

THEY WERE PLACED INTO FOSTER OR ADOPTED WITHIN 30 HOURS.

WOW.

WHICH IS CRAZY.

AND SO THEN WE SENT ALL THE SURPLUS FOSTER FOLKS TO NEW YORK CAC AND DIRECTED EVERYONE TO THEM AND THEY GOT 2,000 FOSTER APPLICATIONS.

AND THIS WAS LIKE WITHIN A MATTER OF DAYS.

AND ULTIMATELY THEY ENDED UP WITH 5,000 PEOPLE WANTING TO RAISE THEIR HANDS.

AND NOW THEIR CALLOUT IS BASICALLY, HEY, WE DO STILL HAVE ANIMALS FOR ADOPTION AT NEW YORK ACC.

AND SO THEY'RE THE ONES THAT MIGHT BE A LITTLE BIT BIGGER, THE DOGS THAT ARE BIGGER, MAYBE NEED A LITTLE BIT MORE LOVE.

BUT THEY STILL HAVE ADOPTIONS, SO I WOULD ENCOURAGE NEW YORKERS TO GO THERE AND REACH OUT TO THE NEW YORK ACC.

TO CLARIFY, THE NEW YORK ACC IS THE CITY SHELTER?

THAT'S THE CITY SHELTER, YES.

AND, YOU KNOW, THE THING IS NEW YORK VERY MUCH HAS A HUGE TRANSPORT SYSTEM FROM SOUTHERN STATES UP TO THE CITY.

AND OF COURSE ALL THAT CLOSED DOWN.

SO PEOPLE ARE WANTING ANIMALS IN NEW YORK RIGHT NOW AND I WISH WE COULD GET THEM THERE.

BUT THERE ARE STILL ANIMALS IN THE CITY.

SO NEW YORK CITY IS PART OF WHAT PUSHED THE NEEDLE IN THE ANIMAL SHELTER MOVEMENT IN THE FIRST PLACE, RIGHT?

I MEAN, GOING BACK MORE THAN 100 YEARS AGO?

YEAH, I MEAN, NEW YORK HAS AN INTERESTING STORY.

IT'S SORT OF WHERE THE MODERN ANIMAL SHELTERING MOVEMENT STARTED 150 YEARS AGO.

IT STARTED BECAUSE THERE WERE SPRAY DOGS ON THE STREET OF NEW YORK, THE STREETS OF NEW YORK, AND THE CITY, RIGHTFULLY SO, HAD CONCERNS ABOUT RABIES.

SO THEY ASKED THE CITY TO DO SOMETHING, AND THE CITY RESPONDED BY PUTTING A BOUNTY ON ALL THE STRAY DOGS.

AND BASICALLY THEY ROUNDED UP ALL THE DOGS, PUT THEM IN A METAL CAGE AND DUMPED THEM IN THE EAST RIVER, WHICH WAS HORRIFYING FOR A LOT OF THE CITIZENS OF NEW YORK, OBVIOUSLY.

AND THEY DEMANDED BETTER.

AND SO WHAT ENDED UP HAPPENING IS THAT'S HOW SHELTERS STARTED.

THEY STARTED POPPING UP ALL OVER THE COUNTRY.

BUT THE SAD THING WAS, THE SAME THING WAS HAPPENING, EXCEPT FOR JUST BEHIND CLOSED DOORS.

AND THIS WENT ON FOR DECADE AFTER DECADE, UNTIL BEST FRIENDS ANIMAL SOCIETY BASICALLY SAID WHY ARE WE NOT FOCUSED ON SAVING ANIMALS RATHER THAN KILLING ANIMALS.

AND SO THE NO-KILL MOVEMENT WAS BORN AND, YOU KNOW, FROM THAT POINT FORWARD THE NUMBER OF ANIMALS THAT ARE DYING IN SHELTERS HAS REDUCED DRAMATICALLY.

TODAY, 2,000 ANIMALS ARE STILL DYING EVERY SINGLE DAY IN OUR ANIMAL SHELTER SYSTEM.

WHAT COVID HAS DONE IS FASCINATING, BECAUSE IT'S GIVING US A GLIMPSE INTO THE FUTURE OF WHAT THIS COULD MEAN, THAT WE ARE DEALING WITH A PERIOD OF TOTAL DISRUPTION, MEANING THAT WE REALLY DON'T HAVE THAT SHELTER SYSTEM IN PLACE.

IT'S KIND OF BEEN TAKEN OFF THE TABLE.

IT'S WHAT BEGS THE QUESTION, DO WE REALLY NEED THAT KIND OF SYSTEM IN THIS COUNTRY ANYMORE?

CAN WE REFRAME THE WAY WE THINK ABOUT ANIMAL SHELTERING?

AND WE'VE BEEN TALKING ABOUT THIS FOR ABOUT A DECADE NOW INTERNALLY, AND I THINK IT'S A REALLY COOL CONCEPT.

AND I THINK THE ENTIRE MOVEMENT IS GOING TO COME OUT OF THIS TOTALLY DIFFERENTLY.

THE MOVEMENT HAS ALSO BEEN FORWARDED QUITE A BIT IN A SHORT AMOUNT OF TIME BECAUSE OF THIS, RIGHT?

YEAH, I THINK LIKE MANY INDUSTRIES, WE'VE HAD TO ADJUST ON THE FLY AND FIGURE STUFF OUT.

AND SO, YOU KNOW, THINKING ABOUT DOING A VIRTUAL ADOPTION IN THE PAST, THERE JUST WEREN'T A LOT OF THOSE KIND OF THINGS TAKING PLACE AS A STANDARD PROTOCOL.

THERE WERE EVEN SHELTERS THAT WEREN'T DOING FOSTERING THAT ARE NOW DOING FOSTERING.

SO THERE'S BEEN A LOT OF THAT -- YOU KNOW, IT'S THAT SORT OF CONCEPT THAT WHEN YOU HAVE A MASSIVE DISRUPTION LIKE THIS, IT SPEEDS UP THE INEVITABLE.

AND I THINK THAT'S REALLY WHERE WE'RE AT RIGHT NOW, IS THROUGH TECHNOLOGY AND JUST REALLY FORWARD-THINKING PRACTICES, NECESSITY IS THE MOTHER OF INVENTION.

AND WE'VE HAD TO MAKE SHIFTS AND CHANGES IN THE WAY WE DO BUSINESS, JUST LIKE EVERYONE ELSE.

AND I THINK, FOR US, IT'S GOING TO MEAN MORE ANIMALS' LIVES ARE SAVED IN THE FUTURE BECAUSE WE'RE RETHINKING OUR BUSINESS AND A LOT OF THE WAYS THAT WE'VE BEEN DOING THINGS IN THE PAST IS PROBABLY A LITTLE BIT MORE BEHIND THAN OTHER INDUSTRIES.

DO YOU SEE THE FUTURE OF ADOPTION AND FOSTERING CHANGING DRAMATICALLY BECAUSE OF THIS PERIOD OF TIME?

I DO.

I MEAN, I REALLY THINK THAT WHAT THIS HAS DONE IS, LIKE I SAID, I THINK IT'S EXPOSED A LOT OF PEOPLE TO FOSTERING OR ADOPTING ANIMALS THAT NEVER REALLY FELT LIKE THEY COULD BEFORE, BECAUSE THEY WORKED ALL DAY.

AND THEN, YOU KNOW, THEY GET THE ANIMAL INTO THEIR HOME AND REALIZE THE REAL SECRET IS A LOT OF THEM SLEEP FOR MOST OF THE DAY.

AND SO, YOU KNOW, THEY'RE COUCH POTATOES IN MANY CASES, AND I THINK WE'RE GOING TO SEE A LOT OF WHAT WE CALL FOSTER FAILURES, WHERE SOMEBODY TAKES IN A FOSTER, THEY FALL IN LOVE AND THERE'S NO TURNING BACK.

AND I DO THINK WE'VE EXPOSED THIS COUNTRY TO THE NEED TO HELP HOMELESS PETS IN A WAY THAT NOTHING ELSE COULD HAVE.

SO THERE IS A SILVER LINING TO THIS TRAGEDY, FOR SURE.

LAST QUICK QUESTION.

THERE'S BEEN CONVERSATION ABOUT TRANSFERRING THE VIRUS FROM PET OWNERS TO PETS.

IS THAT SOMETHING PEOPLE NEED TO BE CONCERNED ABOUT?

YEAH, I MEAN, IT'S SO RARE, I THINK NOT.

IT IS A SITUATION WHERE WE KNOW OF IN THE COUNTRY THREE PETS THAT HAVE HAD -- THAT HAVE CONTRACTED THE CORONAVIRUS AND GIVEN THE NUMBER OF PEOPLE THAT HAVE BEEN INFECTED, WE BELIEVE THAT WE WOULD HAVE HEARD MORE ABOUT IT.

THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO EVIDENCE THAT A PET CAN TRANSMIT THE CORONAVIRUS TO A HUMAN.

AND OBVIOUSLY WE'RE VERY CONCERNED ABOUT THAT, BECAUSE THEY ARE NOT A VECTOR, THE HUMANS ARE THE VECTOR, SOROR SO APPEARS.

SO IF YOU DO HAVE IT, MAYBE YOU'RE JUST MORE SAFE IF YOU HAVE A PET.

IF YOU HAVE THE VOIRUS, I WOULD SUGGEST YOU TREAT YOUR PATIENTS LIKE ANY OTHER HUMAN, WHERE YOU PRACTICE SOCIAL DISTANCING AND YOU ARE CAREFUL NOT TO EXPOSE YOUR PET TO THE VIRUS AS WELL.

SO IF THAT MEANS WEARING A MASK OR POTENTIALLY WEARING GLOVES IF YOU HAVE TO GROOM YOUR PET OR PICK UP YOUR PET.

WASH YOUR HANDS FREQUENTLY, PRACTICE PERSONAL HYGIENE, ALL THE GOOD STUFF THAT WE'VE BEEN HEARING.

MAKES SENSE.

ALL RIGHT.

THANKS SO MUCH, JULIE CASTLE, CEO OF BEST FRIENDS ANIMAL SOCIETY.

I'M MADDIE ORTON.

JULIE, STAY SAFE.

YOU, TOO.

THANK YOU SO MUCH.

HAVE A GREAT DAY.

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