A Florida animal shelter has gone viral for the best reason: All the cages in its kennel are empty for the first time ever.
Friends of Palm Beach County Animal Care and Control of West Palm Beach, Fla., is celebrating after the organization was able to get all the animals in its shelter adopted or fostered for the first time in its history. On Tuesday, the shelter posted a video to Facebook of its employees at kennel two (one of the three kennel buildings) wearing protective masks as they clapped victoriously at the dozens of empty cages.
“This amazing milestone was made possible by the help and support of our entire community!” the post said in part. “Thank you to the shelter staff and volunteers who work tirelessly to care for, find homes for, and advocate for the pets who come through these doors; thank you to our incredible foster parents who open their heart and homes to thousands of pets each year; thank you to everyone who has opted to adopt a shelter pet...”
As of Friday, the post had been shared thousands of times with many people expressing their excitement.
“I am so happy to hear that that made my day that made my whole month thank God there's people out there that loves animals like I do,” one commenter wrote.
“What a wonderful day for the workers and animals,” someone said.
“Makes me wanna cry!!!!! Happy tears of course,” another person added.
Elizabeth Harfmann, the community outreach manager at the shelter, tells Yahoo Life that she is “very surprised” by the response they have gotten.
“We expected it to garner some attention and build positivity in the community, but never in a million years did we imagine it would be so far reaching!” she says. “We've heard from people in Malaysia, Poland, the UK and Canada.”
Harfmann, who has worked at the shelter for 11 years, says that the viral video was the idea of behavior and enrichment coordinator, Stephani Moore, who thought it would be an “exciting photo op for our staff.”
“Not only that, but as a thank you to everyone who helped to make it happen. Without the support of our community, this would not have been possible,” she says.
According to Harfmann, the shelter can accommodate up to 300-plus animals at a time, with over 100 of them available for adoption or foster. And because it’s an open-admission shelter, the population can fluctuate at any time with varying breeds of cats and dogs.
“The pets most in need of placement help are our dogs 40 pounds and larger and adult cats,” she notes.
Harfmann says that there was initially a gradually growing trend of adoptions and fosters, but in mid-March, she noticed a significant increase. With the coronavirus pandemic in full swing and millions under quarantine, it was no surprise that many more animals were able to find homes.
“Shelters are desperately trying to get animals placed due to staff shortages because of the pandemic. People seem to want to help in whatever fashion they can due to the world being a changed placed. Pets provide a sense of comfort, companionship and are an added health benefit. With people being home now, many of them have the extra time needed to devote to a pet.”
Just this week Mark and Hollie Moffett, of Lake Worth, Fla., became two of many adopters that helped the animal shelter to be able to be able to meet this goal. The pair adopted both a pitbull mix and springer spaniel mix (Skye and Hazel), who previously lived together before they were turned over to the shelter in January by their elderly owner.
“We were planning to adopt for a while and with all the kids home from school, it felt like the right time to make the plunge,” Mark tells Yahoo Life.
In 2018, the Moffetts lost one of their older dogs and, just four months ago, lost their other elderly dog, and Mark admits that his kids were eager to adopt again. Now Skye and Hazel have found a loving home where their new owners say they have been doing a lot of exploring and getting comfortable. And with the shelter going viral, Mark says he is glad that they were able to do their part.
“I think it’s great. I know it’s hard because they can’t have [it] open where families can come down all together to meet the dogs, so it’s hard...it’s a scary place for dogs right now so I’m glad that we’re able to help a couple of dogs find homes,” he says.
Marcy Ebenstein of West Palm Beach fostered a cat from the shelter.
“[It] was wonderful for me to find a companion during this difficult and lonely time,” she tell Yahoo Life.
With so many animals able to find great homes during this uncertain time, Harfmann encourages others to get involved with their local shelter.
“This is the dream of every animal welfare workers everywhere,” she admits. “We always hoped for the day to come, but never could have believed it would take a pandemic to get us there. We are thrilled to see so many empty cages and hoping to keep the momentum going to empty the remaining ones...We also hope that it provides comfort and positivity to people in this time of uncertainty, stress and home quarantine.”
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