Updated: Oct 30, 2020
People have been tuning in from all over to watch and listen to the Anne Arundel County Care & Control’s daily morning Facebook livestream tour of the shelter’s abandoned, lost and unwanted pets.
Thursday. August 6, the show garnered 2,700 viewers according to Facebook, and that number is not an aberration according to those in the know.
“We have somebody from Australia who watches it," said Chris Weinstein, one of the shelters volunteers. “A lot of people who don't live anywhere close to here or who are not active or come to the shelter still watch it. “
The program is usually close to an hour long and starts at 9:30 a.m. each day Monday through Saturday. Viewership tends to crest as the facility administrator visits with the dogs and then can drop off somewhat when the cats of the shelter are presented, Weinstein said.
The cats weren’t available for comment on their second-place showing in the morning, Weinstein noted that the cats, some in particular, may have more of a challenge with adoption.
Although she estimated most of the cats the shelter cares for are in foster homes, around 25 percent of available cats are probably 10 years old or older. But the morning show can help these furry friends by exposing the public to their circumstances.
“It gives people a little bit of an insider view of what it's like at a public shelter,” She's (Administrator/Host Robin Catlett) is very frank about things she talks about. It's really hard right now. This is a time of year when there’s tons of kittens. Do you want a ten-year-old cat, or do you want a kitten? A lot of people go--“Kittens!”.”
The show has been a success even for those pets that may be traditionally seen as less attractive to adopt. Weinstein confirmed that the morning livestream, which has been going on for months now, has attracted new animal foster parents to care for shelter pets. The last time she had checked, the volunteer said the shelter had 225 approved fostering applications.
The shelter now has limited visitor capacity and accepts potential adoptive owners by appointment. That has reduced the number of people who come to see animals, but it has had some other benefits, other than social distancing for coronavirus.
“You can go on to the website, under adopt a pet, and there's a form there that you fill out,” Weinstein explained. ”They make you fill it out before you come to the shelter. That way they know that the people coming to the shelter are qualified to adopt. Number two, (that) they are really curious about adoption.”
As another service, the shelter currently also offers rabies vaccinations as well as ID chip implants for pets by appointment on Thursdays. When pet owners come to the shelter, human social interaction is limited to prevent possible transmission of coronavirus.
When an owner arrives cats should be brought in carriers. The carrier is placed at an effective social-distance so a staff member can receive them for care. Dogs are transferred by leash. All owners wait in their car for their pet to be brought back out to them.
The shelter’s animals have friends on and off screen. The friends group that supports the shelter petitioned the county hard during several town halls this spring. Among other requests, they wanted the corroded portions of animal pens to be replaced.
It took a while, but the county executive agreed to funding the improvement. And, though there was some budget upheaval created by the pandemic emergency, the county managed to keep the funds in the budget.
Weinstein was happy to say that the items have now been ordered and are expected to be installed in the fall.
“Great hope for that!” Weinstein said. “They’re ordered.”
There also looks to be hope for the livestream. Weinstein, who sometimes works behind the scenes during the production to answer viewer questions, believes the show has already made a difference.
It has been effective in introducing many residents to four-legged celebrities that would soon become part of their families.
“I can't tell you how many people have come in, and they said ‘I saw “XYZ” animal on the livestream this morning’, or ‘Oh my, I've seen all these (shelter) rooms on livestream and now I’m here’. A lot of people are coming in to adopt because they saw the animals on the live video.”