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In an effort to help combat isolation for Washington, D.C. seniors, a critical need during the pandemic, the Humane Rescue Alliance launched a new partnership with the DC Department of Aging and Community Living called Senior Pet Connect. Through this partnership, HRA aims to be a source for seniors and their animals’ needs and to provide a connection with animals to promote emotional wellbeing. The partnership launched with a series of Zoom calls from HRA staff and their animals to homebound seniors in DC, with plans to grow the partnership in the near future.
The Humane Rescue Alliance continued with a 100% success rate for their MART (Missing Animal Response Team) Program. MART is activated when a foster or newly adopted animal gets lost. Using flyers, community networking, field response and a strong group of volunteers, a lost dog named Luna was safely returned to her new adoptive home. Luna took a big nap and her owners were relieved to have her back safe and sound.
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During the three month period of June, July, and August our volunteers and fosters have continued to play a critical role at Humane Rescue Alliance (HRA). Our volunteer department has collaborated across the organization to create over 65 new specialized volunteer roles in eight different departments helping support the mission of HRA. For the same time period, our foster team placed 1,043 animals into foster homes compared with 477 animals for this same time period last year. Additionally, in August, HRA’s HOPE (Help Out, Partner and Engage) Program designed and distributed a questionnaire to seven apartment complexes in Washington, DC in an attempt to better understand residents’ animal-related needs, points of conflicts between residents and management, and to support the creation and distribution of resources and services in community-based events.
The Humane Rescue Alliance in Washington, D.C. pivoted our essential services over the last few months to meet people and their pets where they are, in their neighborhoods and in also in their homes. We moved most of our adoptable animal population into foster homes and began offering services like telemedicine, virtual behavior classes, and virtual adoptions that have enabled us to connect with our community in a more intimate way-right in their living rooms.
We are also in the process of launching new volunteer positions that will accelerate our ability to provide resources to families with pets without them having to come to the shelter. D.C. is a city of neighborhoods – we have eight wards. So, we are launching a new “Ward Captain” position that will serve as a liaison to the District’s representatives to that ward as well as the city council. Our Ward Captain volunteers will serve as key ambassadors who advocate for animals by applying their time and influence in support of HRA’s legislative and policy goals. We are also launching a network of “Street Team” volunteers who represent HRA in their own neighborhoods by maintaining a presence at everything from community centers to churches with information on our services and programs.
We are continuing to grow our relationships with key government agencies, including the Department of Human Services and HRA now sits on the Interagency Council on Homelessness which guides the District’s policies and programs for meeting the needs of individuals, youth, and families who are experiencing or at imminent risk of experiencing homelessness. We recognize that the first step to strategically providing resources to individuals and families with pets that are housing insecure or homeless is to learn more about them. So, we are building upon the data collection and survey efforts already utilized by the District and other social service organizations to create data points on pet ownership.
Our robust Pet Pantry program was created to support DC residents in caring for their pets by providing free pet food to those who indicate need. From March through July we fed 2,932 animals with nearly 23,000 pounds of pet food, serving approximately one-thousand families each month.
Adjacent to D.C. is Prince George’s County, MD- a community that has been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. In March, the county’s only animal shelter essentially closed their doors for most of their essential services. So, HRA expanded our Pet Pantry to serve Prince George’s County by establishing a partnership with a local AME church, the Prince George’s Office of the County Executive, and Capital area food bank to distribute groceries and pet food. So far we’ve given out over 5,000 bags of pet food to residents in need in Prince George’s County!