Impact of the pandemic on animal welfare in Boone County

January 2022

As the repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to show their effects on the health care network, school districts, supplies, and more. in our county, there is another community partner who is also deeply affected by the impact of the pandemic and desperately needs our help—the Humane Society of Boone County (HSforBC).

I spoke with HSforBC Executive Director Susan Austin who shared HSforBC’s specific needs and how the community can help the county animal shelter and the programs that exist to help the county’s dogs and cats. I was surprised to learn that the issues affecting HSforBC’s services go far beyond its physical location. The veterinary and pet welfare industry as a whole has taken a beating since 2020, and there doesn’t seem to be a clear end in sight to these rather disturbing issues.

If you’re done feeling helpless about some of these issues and are interested in helping with some of the real “solvable” issues, Austin shared how people can make a real difference.

Advocacy for animals

HSforBC has remained a good steward of its dollars even throughout the pandemic. Austin shared, “We adjusted the belt buckle and made sure we didn’t spend money we didn’t need to spend. We spend it wisely, taking advantage of buying in bulk and doing things like that.

Boone County Humane Society

Austin explained that it was difficult for her to ask for donations and help at the start of the pandemic because she was sensitive to the fact that there were children who were not eating because they were not there. school to get school meals. She didn’t want to “compete” for donor money with local organizations that were just as desperate for financial support from local residents and the business community.

“During the first six months of [2020], we didn’t ask for help,” Austin said. “We just made sure we maintained the ‘Pet Pantry’ and that we could offer it to members of the community. We went through over 28,000 pounds of dry [pet] food alone last year in our pet pantries. We try to align our pet pantries with pantries throughout Boone County so we know it’s going to people who might otherwise use their “food” money for their pets.

According to Austin, HSforBC and local veterinarians are having serious difficulty sourcing needed vaccines for dogs and cats due to supply chain issues. And there just aren’t enough vets and clinics in the area to care for all the dogs and cats that have been adopted in the past two years.

Boone County Humane Society

“There have been many times where we have struggled to find vaccines,” Austin said. “There is also a significant backlog in obtaining low-cost sterilization services. We had to adopt a “home to adopt” model because as of July 1, 2021, rescues and shelters are all required to modify all adopted animals. So we can’t complete any adoptions until the animal is edited. It used to be a week or two of waiting, and now it’s four to six weeks, sometimes eight.

Additionally, HSforBC has seen an increase in pet abandonments over the past year.

Austin added: “We’ve had more cat deliveries because their owners are passing away. And there seem to be more unclaimed and stray dogs.

What can you do to help HSforBC?

In addition to the difficulties of finding vaccines and services for the dogs and cats in its care, HSforBC has lost several of its key volunteers as another cause/effect of the pandemic.

“We practice [COVID-19] protocols and we don’t have too many people in the building at one time, but we’ve lost a lot of our volunteers,” Austin said. “We also recognized that we needed to renovate the shelter, especially the cat area, to create the best ventilation and temperature control. We share a 10 x 6 office for two people, so we need additional office space We also need an extension to the back of the dog area for more dogs and more storage for the pet pantry as I can’t see the need for it to go away so soon.

So how can you help HSforBC? Get tickets to this year’s Fur Ball on Saturday, February 26. The annual fundraiser, presented by TDS and HSforBC, will be held in person and will also offer a virtual component so that more people can participate, regardless of their comfort level.

“This year we have a limited number of tables [tables of eight], and we will be practicing social distancing,” Austin explained. “We will have about a third fewer tables than what we normally do. We are still going to have our live and silent auctions, and for people who want to join us [virtually], we have a home party kit so they can participate with us. The silent auction will open [online] the Sunday preceding the event and will close at noon the following Sunday.

For more information, event times and tickets, visit To learn more about HSforBC programs and how to foster an animal or volunteer with HSforBC, visit

Keywords Animal Welfare Boone County Boone County Pet Pantries HSforBC Fur Ball Humane Society for Boone County Humane Society of Boone County Animal Shelter Susan Austin Pet Pantries

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