It might be called ‘Love in the Time of Corona,’ but for the Forsyth Humane Society (FHS), the need to support local animals didn’t stop during the pandemic.

Instead, the team pivoted to create digital solutions during the recent stay-at-home mandate, developing strategies that supported their ongoing mission to increase save rates while functioning as an open admission shelter.

“Forsyth Humane Society was proud to operate as a ‘no-kill’ facility for decades,” says Sarah Williamson, executive director at FHS. “When we entered into the contract with Forsyth County, we moved from being a limited admission shelter to an open admission shelter.”

Williamson explains that no-kill shelters can support a commitment to not euthanize any animals by selecting only healthy, highly adoptable animals, while an open admission shelter is obligated to take in all animals, including those that are older, sick, or aggressive. When FHS expanded to become open admission, the organization’s goal shifted.

“We moved into our new shelter at 4881 Country Club Road in August of 2016,” Williamson says. “We moved from about 1,800 square feet of shelter space to 10,000 square feet and doubled our capacity for care. We also created much-needed space for people to comfortably interact with the animals, and we added a community room for events, meetings, and education.”

In January of 2018, FHS became a contracted partner of Forsyth County, responsible for managing cat and dog care at the Forsyth County Animal Shelter at 5570 Sturmer Park Circle. The expansion accompanied a big goal for the FHS organization — increasing the 36 percent save rate logged in 2017 to 90 percent by 2023.

According to Williamson, 2,508 animals — 1,000 puppies and dogs and 1,508 kittens and cats — were adopted into loving homes in 2019, and 763 pets were reunited with their families. Additionally, Forsyth Humane Society works with approximately 50 breed-specific and smaller rescues up and down the East Coast, and has a successful transport program that sends animals to shelters in mostly northern states. As a result, FHS transferred 1,268 animals to other life-saving rescues in 2019, adding to the total of 4,539 animal placements.

“We are proud that with our community’s help, we have increased the save rate to 77 percent at of the end of 2019,” Williamson says. “So while we are no longer operating as a no-kill shelter, we are in fact saving more animals.”

Adopt. Educate. Love.

Many of the animal stories that surfaced during the stay-at-home mandate involved animals appearing in unlikely places. Tapirs meandered along city streets in Buenos Aires, and coyotes relaxed in the urban spaces of Phoenix. Here in Winston-Salem, the usual raccoons, bunnies, and opossums made more frequent appearances, and locals even gathered in a city neighborhood — while practicing social distancing — with a hope of catching a glimpse of a mama fox and her babies doing their own version of sheltering in place.

Along with the random wildlife sightings, the need to provide services for domesticated animals continued during the shutdown. Williamson and her team shifted their standard operations in response, completing adoptions digitally and offering curbside pick-up to approved adopters. Additionally, Williamson said that some of the previously existing communication and social media strategies utilized by the organization supplemented pivot initiatives and remained in place once the mandates were lifted.

“We love using #savefursyth as a way for our community — individual pet lovers and businesses — to show their support of our big goal to increase the save rate of Forsyth shelter cats and dogs,” she says. “Social media is a wonderful way for people to connect around their love of animals.”

Community connections

Reaching the 90 percent save goal is dependent on continued community support and education. Williamson explained that fundraising efforts enhance educational efforts which in turn hopefully fuel an increase in spay and neuter numbers.

“Education is an important part of our mission and often happens in dialogue with potential adopters,” she says. “We want to make sure folks are aware of needs like the importance of heartworm treatment and the reasons why we don’t allow adopters to declaw cats.”

Key fundraisers for Forsyth Humane Society include the annual Furr Ball and Mutt Strut, along with the #savefursyth community-wide awareness campaign. Furr Ball is an event described by organizers as a “fun and glamourous evening that includes a four-course dinner with wine, spirits, desserts, entertainment, as well as silent and live auctions.” For 2020, Furr Ball is scheduled for Sept. 26.

Earlier this year, protections against COVID-19 dictated that the annual Mutt Strut transition into an online event, an effort complemented by the #savefursyth campaign. Conveying a message of positivity and compassion around cats and dogs in the community, as well as love of animals and animal companionship, #savefursyth will remain a key part of FHS’ messaging as the organization strives to reach the 90 percent save goal in 2023.

“Forsyth Humane Society is grateful to work and live in such a generous, animal-loving community,” Williamson says. “The most important act people can take to reduce euthanasia in shelters is spaying and neutering their pets. FHS partners with and supports other organizations like Humane Solution, who work to make spaying and neutering surgeries affordable and accessible, and Forgotten Felines [of Forsyth], who promotes spaying and neutering of community or feral cats.”

At the end of the day

With an ambitious save goal to achieve in a few years, the team at FHS has a robust agenda to develop and complete. But Williamson says that challenges notwithstanding, the direct impact of the work the organization does never fails to remind her that it’s all worth the effort.

“There are 1,000 happy stories,” she says. “I was getting groceries the other day and the checkout clerk, who was an older gentleman, smiled and said, ‘We took your advice and adopted a kitten from you. The other morning, I was reading the paper in my recliner and that kitten jumped up to here, punched through my newspaper, and landed on my chest. I just about had a heart attack. Then that kitten crawled up under my neck and licked my face. My wife just about died laughing!’

“One of my favorite stories is about a husky surrendered by a hospice patient,” Williamson continues. “She died a few days later after visiting our shelter and leaving her dog in the sunshine. That happened a few years ago, but it always makes me cry when I tell it.”

For more information on Forsyth Humane Society, go to forsythhumane.org.

It might be called ‘Love in the Time of Corona,’ but for the Forsyth Humane Society (FHS), the need to support local animals didn’t stop during the pandemic.Instead, the team pivoted to create digital solutions during the recent stay-at-home mandate, developing strategies that supported their ongoing mission to increase save rates while functioning as an open admission shelter. “Forsyth Humane Society was proud to operate as a ‘no-kill’ facility for decades,” says Sarah Williamson, executive director at FHS. “When we entered into the contract with Forsyth County, we moved from being a limited admission shelter to an open admission shelter.”Williamson explains that no-kill shelters can support a commitment to not euthanize any animals by selecting only healthy, highly adoptable animals, while an open admission shelter is obligated to take in all animals, including those that are older, sick, or aggressive. When FHS expanded to become open admission, the organization’s goal shifted.“We moved into our new shelter at 4881 Country Club Road in August of 2016,” Williamson says. “We moved from about 1,800 square feet of shelter space to 10,000 square feet and doubled our capacity for care. We also created much-needed space for people to comfortably interact with the animals, and we added a community room for events, meetings, and education.”In January of 2018, FHS became a contracted partner of Forsyth County, responsible for managing cat and dog care at the Forsyth County Animal Shelter at 5570 Sturmer Park Circle. The expansion accompanied a big goal for the FHS organization — increasing the 36 percent save rate logged in 2017 to 90 percent by 2023.According to Williamson, 2,508 animals — 1,000 puppies and dogs and 1,508 kittens and cats — were adopted into loving homes in 2019, and 763 pets were reunited with their families. Additionally, Forsyth Humane Society works with approximately 50 breed-specific and smaller rescues up and down the East Coast, and has a successful transport program that sends animals to shelters in mostly northern states. As a result, FHS transferred 1,268 animals to other life-saving rescues in 2019, adding to the total of 4,539 animal placements.“We are proud that with our community’s help, we have increased the save rate to 77 percent at of the end of 2019,” Williamson says. “So while we are no longer operating as a no-kill shelter, we are in fact saving more animals.”Adopt. Educate. Love. Many of the animal stories that surfaced during the stay-at-home mandate involved animals appearing in unlikely places. Tapirs meandered along city streets in Buenos Aires, and coyotes relaxed in the urban spaces of Phoenix. Here in Winston-Salem, the usual raccoons, bunnies, and opossums made more frequent appearances, and locals even gathered in a city neighborhood — while practicing social distancing — with a hope of catching a glimpse of a mama fox and her babies doing their own version of sheltering in place.Along with the random wildlife sightings, the need to provide services for domesticated animals continued during the shutdown. Williamson and her team shifted their standard operations in response, completing adoptions digitally and offering curbside pick-up to approved adopters. Additionally, Williamson said that some of the previously existing communication and social media strategies utilized by the organization supplemented pivot initiatives and remained in place once the mandates were lifted.“We love using #savefursyth as a way for our community — individual pet lovers and businesses — to show their support of our big goal to increase the save rate of Forsyth shelter cats and dogs,” she says. “Social media is a wonderful way for people to connect around their love of animals.” 

Community connectionsReaching the 90 percent save goal is dependent on continued community support and education. Williamson explained that fundraising efforts enhance educational efforts which in turn hopefully fuel an increase in spay and neuter numbers.“Education is an important part of our mission and often happens in dialogue with potential adopters,” she says. “We want to make sure folks are aware of needs like the importance of heartworm treatment and the reasons why we don’t allow adopters to declaw cats.”Key fundraisers for Forsyth Humane Society include the annual Furr Ball and Mutt Strut, along with the #savefursyth community-wide awareness campaign. Furr Ball is an event described by organizers as a “fun and glamourous evening that includes a four-course dinner with wine, spirits, desserts, entertainment, as well as silent and live auctions.” For 2020, Furr Ball is scheduled for Sept. 26.  Earlier this year, protections against COVID-19 dictated that the annual Mutt Strut transition into an online event, an effort complemented by the #savefursyth campaign. Conveying a message of positivity and compassion around cats and dogs in the community, as well as love of animals and animal companionship, #savefursyth will remain a key part of FHS’ messaging as the organization strives to reach the 90 percent save goal in 2023. “Forsyth Humane Society is grateful to work and live in such a generous, animal-loving community,” Williamson says. “The most important act people can take to reduce euthanasia in shelters is spaying and neutering their pets. FHS partners with and supports other organizations like Humane Solution, who work to make spaying and neutering surgeries affordable and accessible, and Forgotten Felines [of Forsyth], who promotes spaying and neutering of community or feral cats.”At the end of the dayWith an ambitious save goal to achieve in a few years, the team at FHS has a robust agenda to develop and complete. But Williamson says that challenges notwithstanding, the direct impact of the work the organization does never fails to remind her that it’s all worth the effort.“There are 1,000 happy stories,” she says. “I was getting groceries the other day and the checkout clerk, who was an older gentleman, smiled and said, ‘We took your advice and adopted a kitten from you. The other morning, I was reading the paper in my recliner and that kitten jumped up to here, punched through my newspaper, and landed on my chest. I just about had a heart attack. Then that kitten crawled up under my neck and licked my face. My wife just about died laughing!’“One of my favorite stories is about a husky surrendered by a hospice patient,” Williamson continues. “She died a few days later after visiting our shelter and leaving her dog in the sunshine. That happened a few years ago, but it always makes me cry when I tell it.”For more information on Forsyth Humane Society, go to forsythhumane.org

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