RACC credits pandemic for empty cages, starts new project to save animals around the country

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Richmond Animal Care and Control (RACC) is reporting a staggering decrease in the amount of animals they’ve taken in and high adoption rates at the same time. In turn, cages that normally would be full are empty.

The city-run organization will use the extra space to save animals from around the country.

Normally, the shelter’s Ward B would be filled with dogs. However, 2020 is giving us some things to smile about. More dogs and cats are finding forever homes. “This ward has been empty since April,” RACC’s Christie Peters said.

Peters said the shelter took in 1,200 fewer animals in 2020 compared to 2019. Roughly 2,200 animals entered the shelter in 2020. “I think it is because of the virus. I really do. I think that animals provide such a comfort and solace…the people who’ve had animals maybe that were a little tricky, when they’re home, they can work on behavior issues. Maybe they would have given up that pet and they’re not,” she said.

Peters said the cages aren’t empty solely because less animals are being sheltered, but also because dogs and cats are being adopted much quicker and more often. “We used to have dogs that would sit for a year. Now it’s like two weeks max. They’re in, they’re out, they’re adopted,” Peters said. “We’re hopeful that trend will continue.”

So with the open space and funding exclusively from the Tommie foundation, RACC is planning a new way to save more paws in other parts of the U.S. “Your donations are already at work saving other animals around the country,” Peters said.

They’re assembling teams of volunteers who will drive to collect animals from overcrowded or underfunded public shelters. The shelter calls it “RACC Gives Back.”

Because of what happened to Tommie, the pitbull tied to a fence and set on fire almost two years ago, RACC’s social media following still extends far beyond Virginia. This makes it easier for the organization to find and save more animals, according to Peters. “That story.. just sort of catapulted our social media reach to an enormous population that just rallied for that case. Then [they] stayed on board to watch what we do with our shelter every day.”

RACC needs help in identifying which shelters they should travel to.

“We need you. Get excited. Please reach out to your local (anywhere in the continental US) municipal shelter (no private rescues/shelters); we want to help shelters that have no money, no resources and no outreach. If they don’t have social media-look them up and drive there (with PPE, of course) and invite them to participate,” RACC wrote in a Facebook post Monday morning. The post, which explains the new initiative, already had nearly 1,000 shares by Monday evening.

“We’ve already received heartbreaking emails from shelters in Alabama, and Louisiana, and North Carolina, that those animals are euthanized on Friday. Everything that comes off stray hold is just euthanized,” she said. “That they are a staff of one, or a staff of five for their entire county. They don’t have alternatives and they don’t have a large community that supports them where they are.”

Shelters interested in becoming “transfer partners” should contact Peters at Christie.peters@richmondgov.com. People in the Richmond area who want to volunteer should email Robin Young at robin.young@richmondgov.com.

“The more animals that we can help save, the better,” Peters said.