The COVID-19 pandemic has created a major hurdle for the organization, as spaying and neutering – along with other non-essential or elective surgeries – have been limited by U.S. Surgeon General.

One of the most important things the Siskiyou Humane Society does is the spaying and neutering of dogs and cats to keep the population of unwanted pets down.

The COVID-19 pandemic has created a major hurdle for the organization, as spaying and neutering – along with other non-essential or elective surgeries – have been limited by U.S. Surgeon General.

“It’s very important to understand we and vet hospitals are taking risks every time an animal or person comes through our doors,” said Siskiyou Humane Society executive director Kim Latos.

Latos said some pet owners have contacted them and are upset that spaying and neutering isn’t taking place. She said that “no one can be more upset than me and those within our industry. To me, it more than a punch in the gut; it’s a knockout.”

After all, she said, she is always preaching about the importance of spaying and neutering animals and working on educating the public on this matter.

Because spaying and neutering procedures are on hold, there is an increase in the number of animals in their Foster to Adopt program.

It is California state law and SHS policy that all animals be spayed or neutered before finalizing adoptions, Latos said.

Any animal that is old enough to reproduce, after being medically and physically evaluated, will be available through the FTA program, Latos said. She added that there are specific requirements that must be met until the animal has been altered and the adoption finalized. This includes keeping dogs on a leash at all times outside of a home and yard and returning for follow-up vaccinations and check ups. Cats and kittens in this program cannot go outside.

Latos said their “biggest concern right now” is people picking up kittens and wanting to bring them in.

“They need to know to leave kittens where they are unless they are in immediate danger,” she said.

Latos said there are four things the community needs to be fully aware of. First, healthy, unweaned kittens do not fall into the category of sick or injured. Second, healthy, unweaned kittens are unlikely to be orphaned – and only become so when they are removed from where their mother is likely nearby. Third, kittens are healthiest in both the short and long term when raised by their mother. And lastly, healthy cats and kittens of any age found or seen outside are not an emergency for shelter intake; intake is only appropriate for cats that are sick, injured, dangerous or are in immediate danger, as in the case of cats that are victims of neglect or cruelty.

“As we make decisions and write protocols for this kitten season, there are many additional factors that we have to keep in mind so that we balance human and animal health and safety,” Latos said. If people find kittens, leave them alone and call the shelter to ask questions. The Siskiyou Humane Society can be reached at (530) 926-4052. More information can also be found online at www.siskiyouhumane.org, and on their Facebook page.

Kitten season is coming

Kitten season in Siskiyou County generally starts around April or May, Latos said. But she has experienced some years where it has begun as early as January, and other years where it has not started until June. The first kittens this year arrived over a month ago. The shelter currently has 13 kittens out in foster care.

It is still up in the air when spay and neutering can resume.

“I wish I could say next week,” Latos said. “It depends on those who have ordered us to stay in, the virus and the world wide change about to come. I hope very soon. I could only imagine how difficult it will be for our industry if this continues long term.”

Last year, the Siskiyou Humane Society had a total of 43 foster families, fostering a total of 203 animals.

With kitten season about to likely go into full swing soon, Latos expects to see an increase so foster families are certainly a need.

“We have had many people apply to be a foster family,” she said.

But Latos wants to make clear that people need to understand things have changed with the pandemic, and more is being asked of foster families.

Typically, a family will foster kittens, already weaned, for approximately two to four weeks until they are big enough to be spayed and neutered. After that, they return them to the shelter, and then they are available for adoption.

“We do predict kittens will need to stay in foster homes longer,” due to the current circumstances, Latos said. “Think about having four to five to 12-week old kittens in your house. It can get to be a bit overwhelming. I will say watching a group kittens play is one of the most gratifying experiences. Turn the TV off, sit back and laugh until your stomach hurts.”

Latos said before the COVID-19 pandemic, they rarely fostered out kittens over 14 weeks old.

“We will have to make decisions as the world events unfold regarding kittens, fostering long term and foster to adopt options,” she said.

If anyone is interested in fostering cats and kittens, they can call the shelter. The shelter will email them an application, and they will be interviewed by phone and, if approved, added to the foster waiting list.

“We are always grateful for kitten foster families,” Latos said. “This gives the kittens the ability to experience life in the home. It prepares them for homelife. They get to experience the noise of a vacuum, children loving them and unlimited playspace, and longer daily human contact that the shelter environment can not provide. We can help/save more kittens when we have foster families, My gratitude extends beyond time and space for these families.”

Last year, the Siskiyou Humane Society saw more than 250 kittens come in and average over 200 kittens each year.

Currently, the shelter is closed to the public. Shelter employees are working from a social distance to make sure the needs of the animals and the services they provide to the community are still being met. This includes emergency intakes and adoptions, which are now done by appointment only for those serious about finding a cat or dog. They are also still working on lost and found, education, elderly animal outreach, food bank, emergency rescue, the foster program, as well as assisting law enforcement.

Latos added that she and her staff continue to attend industry-related webinars and read related information each day to learn what other shelters are doing, and ”obtain ideas to help us make decisions.”

“Right now, we have to take precautions due to COVID-19 and the risks of human to human exposure,” she said. “If one of our employees gets sick, then we all are in quarantine. We have a short term solution if this happens for animal care, but the core of the shelter and all administration would come to a halt, and we would only be able to care for the animals in the shelter and not able to help the community.”

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