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Walk for Animals takes on new weight in the era of COVID-19

The Mower County Humane Society will be holding its annual Friends in Need Walk For Animals this Sunday at Todd Park, and perhaps this year more than other years, the need has taken on greater meaning.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been impactful on the Humane Society, cutting down adoption visits and putting strains on resources and spaying and neutering needs.

It even has affected how the walk itself is carried out with people having the opportunity to hand in or send in donations if they are not comfortable taking part in the walk itself.

Masks will be required and social distancing is a natural part of the walk.

What makes this year’s walk especially important is that it is one of two major fundraisers held throughout the year, down to just the one now as the pandemic has forced the cancellation of the annual Pasta Dinner.

“We haven’t done a fundraiser (this year),” said Kelly Rush, who is in charge of the cat side of the building. “Our rummage sale was a mini fundraiser and that was successful, but the money that came in doesn’t even pay for on month of vet bills.”

The shelter itself has seen a rise in both dog and cat numbers during the pandemic. On the dog side, the Humane Society is caring for 39 dogs, 17 of which are nursing puppies and came from just two dogs.

On the cat side there are 150 cats, 73 of which are kittens in various stages.

“The numbers are what is really different this year,” Rush said. “That’s blown us away quite frankly. The number of kittens we have is the number of some humane societies. That’s obviously our greatest concern.”

Carey Sharp, who manages the dog side, said this increase in numbers was seen as a potential problem from the very beginning of the pandemic.

“That was one of the big things that a lot of rescues were afraid of,” Sharp said. “I really don’t know if it’s because of COVID. We’re always dealing with people who just don’t spay and neuter. There’s been an upswing in homeless animals. Maybe it’s just the luck of the draw.”

Sharp pointed to the lack of spaying and neutering as the top concern facing the Humane Society.

Earlier this year, MNSNAP, the program that performs spaying and neutering when traveling around the state was placed on a four-month hold and currently there is no indication when they will start heading out into the state again.

That takes away an affordable method of spaying and neutering that has been a help to many humane socieities.

To help, the Austin Vet Clinic is conducting a low cost spay/neuter clinic in October for cats only for $40. Rabies and distemper shots will also be available at reduced cost if you spay or neuter your cat.

For dogs, that still leaves the original problem though.

“The biggest problem we have on the dog side is the whole thing with the spaying and neutering,” Sharp said. “We’ve been slammed in the last four months with four pregnant dogs.”

Taking part in or donating to the Walk for Animals can help with this, but the event has also been so much more over the years.

“It gives us a chance to get our message out to people,” Sharp said. “It kind helps us to reach them. There are still a lot of people who just don’t understand. They don’t realize the problem and importance with spaying and neutering.”

Even during the unique times and restrictions, members of the Humane Society hope for a successful walk.

“I’m hoping that we get some people out,” Rush said. “It is a fun event, especially for our volunteers who get to see the graduates from the dog side.”

Sunday’s event, which starts with registration at 1 p.m. and the walk at 2 p.m. will include merchandise from the MCHS as well as a drawing for gifts after the walk. Unfortunately, because of COVID-19 restrictions hot dogs and other treats normally sold will not be available.

If you wish to give to the Friends in Need Walk for Animals, pledge forms are available at www.mchs.resuegroups.org or at the MCHS and Austin Vet Clinic.

“Some people who can’t make it or are not comfortable should definitely give the Mower County Humane Society a call and I can arrange a time for their donation to be dropped off,” Rush said.

All pet adoptions are done by scheduled appointment with adoption forms found at their website. Necessary checks are then performed by the MCHS followed by contacting the submitters and scheduling a time to come in get their pet.

“The biggest thing is if you’re going to get a dog and cat, please really put some thought into it,” Sharp said. “You have to think in years.”