In 2020, Rochester organizations found new ways to help people and their pets. Rochester Animal Services (RAS) has implemented innovative programs and services as part of its COVID-19 response plan. In a virtual town hall on December 12th, RAS discussed their partnership with a national initiative called Human Animal Support Services. Their mission is to reimagine the role of animal services and transform the animal shelter system. By concentrating on foster-based adoptions, pet owner assistance, and reunification services, shelters can reduce the number of pets who are admitted. With fewer pets in the shelter, staff and volunteers can focus on community outreach programs and veterinary services. More information about RAS and volunteer opportunities is available at https://www.cityofrochester.gov/rochesteranimalservices/.
Willow Domestic Violence Center provides crisis intervention, counseling, and advocacy services for victims of domestic violence, concerned friends and family, and professionals. At the confidentially located Shill Family Building, staff and volunteers operate a Pet Area with kennels for dogs, cats and other family pets, an outdoor gated play area, a visiting room, and an exam table for pet wellness. Volunteers offer enrichment activities and coordinate vet care for the animals. More information about Willow Center’s services, volunteer opportunities, and the Pet Program donation wish list at https://willowcenterny.org. Their 24/7 hotline is available for calls or texts at (585)-222-SAFE.
The New York State Legislature continued to take important steps towards improving companion animal welfare last year. In July, the Senate passed the New York Puppy Mill Pipeline Bill that prohibits pet stores from selling dogs, cats, and rabbits obtained from commercial breeders. Stores can still collaborate with rescue groups and shelters and provide space to showcase pets for adoption. The bill needs to pass the Assembly and get the governor’s signature to become law.
In national news, pets are moving into the White House, two German Shepherds named Champ and Major. Major was adopted from the Delaware Humane Society and will be an ambassador for rescue dogs, helping to increase awareness about homeless pets and hopefully inspiring more people to foster and adopt animals from shelters. There are rumors that a cat will join the First Family as well.
One of the bright spots of last year was the joy of spending time with our pets. During the pandemic, more Americans adopted and fostered pets, and my family was no exception. After losing both our dogs, my husband Joel and I adopted a spunky, senior mini-poodle named Sweetie and, to the delight of my young nieces, my sister and brother-in-law welcomed a new beagle puppy into their home. I have enjoyed sharing stories about our neighbors and their pets and look forward to featuring more Corn Hill critters in 2021!