Local Animal Shelter Provides Glimmer Of Hope Amid Pandemic

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Lance is a sweet Redbone Coonhound with heartworm. He came to Last Hope on a transport from a Kentucky shelter. He went straight to one of a local vet to begin pre-treatment. Lance will need a foster-to-adopt home during his heartworm treatment, recovery, then finalized adoption.

Adoption centers for animals are not supposed to close. Unfortunately, during the coronavirus pandemic, that’s what happened to Last Hope Animal Rescue, located at 3300 Beltagh Ave. in Wantagh.

The small organization’s staff worked tirelessly to send their cats and dogs to foster care for the time being. Volunteers were heading over to the Wantagh location twice a day during the height of the pandemic to make sure the animals that remained at the shelter were in good hands, receiving the special care they needed.

“People have stepped up to the plate and they’re going into homes,” Last Hope President Linda Stuurman said.

The stay-at-home orders created plenty of challenges for this shelter, as well as others throughout New York. But there are also plenty of positive moments that have come out of this difficult time.

Last Hope is seeing a significant increase in pet adoption interest. People need a companion, and now is the opportune time to have one.

“The other day, 11 dogs arrived from Georgia and four from Kentucky,” Joanne Anderson, outreach coordinator at Last Hope, said. “Our dog coordinator had a back supply of 30 approved applications for just dogs, plus an application for all but one of the 11 from Georgia.”

But just because an application is approved does not mean it will go through. There are still obstacles and background checks that need to be conducted. Once the final paperwork is finalized, the dog will be dropped off at the animal’s new home.

Last Hope is generating plenty of interest on their website, www.lasthopeanimalrescue.org, as well as on the group’s Facebook page. When people see a picture of one of the pets up for adoption, they receive specific requests for the adoption of that animal.

“They have a meeting with the dogs,” Anderson said. “The dogs have outside meetings, except for when it’s too hot. The cats are in the meet and greet room.”

Volunteers and those adopting the pets are required to wear masks for these meetings. The lifetime commitment will then commence, making a difference for both the animal and the person or people adopting them. 

The dynamic duo at Last Hope also said it’s a great time for people to train their new pets because many are still working at home, even as stay-at-home orders have been lifted for the most part.

To keep operation costs at a minimum during the pandemic, Last Hope applied for and received a paycheck protection program (PPP) loan from the Small Business Administration. However, it was a minor loan, nowhere close to the $150,000-plus that many businesses received. The organization also received a handful of small grants. 

What’s Different Now?

Unlike the past, all of the paperwork that needs to be filled out for the pet adoption process is now online. This is actually a quicker process, and one that simplifies it.

But one of the most compelling parts of the pandemic is the foster aspect. Several families took in cats and dogs from Last Hope, providing quite the relief for the organization. In turn, many of the foster homes actually became the permanent ones for these pets.

“Most of the dogs and a lot of the ones that have disabilities now have permanent homes,” Anderson said.

Last Hope is in constant contact with Kent Animal Shelter in Calverton, coordinating dog transports so the two don’t get overwhelmed with more animals than they can handle at the moment. The partnership is a key for both shelters, which are now getting adjusted to the new normal.

But things are not the same at Last Hope.

On Saturdays, new dogs would arrive to the shelter, receiving a warm welcome from volunteers. But that can’t happen as much due to the precautions the organization is taking. Likewise is the case for those who want to adopt animals, but they can’t get the intimate experience they used to have prior to adoption.

For the animals that need special treatment, such as surgeries or regular checkups at a veterinarian, it is harder for Last Hope to get appointments. Additionally, they need volunteers to bring the cats and dogs to these appointments. And the cost of treatment is not going away anytime soon.

“Adoptions have been wonderful,” Stuurman said. “But the spring and summer is our peak for fundraising. We have not had any events to raise money since March, and it’s hurting us financially.”

Each animal costs at least $400 to care for, and that’s just for the interim. That doesn’t include the animals that stay at Last Hope for an extended period of time or need surgery.

Going forward, Last Hope is thrilled to see the increased interest in pet adoption. Now, they want to see that interest continue and bring enthusiasm to these pets’ lives.

Call 631-425-1884 for more information on Last Hope or how to adopt a pet.

Check back next week for a follow-up to see how the town animal shelters are handling the challenges from the coronavirus pandemic.

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