A local cat shelter opened to the public March 14 and remains open, helping displaced cats despite the challenges of COVID-19.
Passionate cat lover Jami Hull runs the operation, known as TNR Maryville, based on the abbreviation for "trap, neuter, release." Hull has cared for Maryville’s stray cats since 2018 and was glad to finally be able to have a place to adopt them out. While COVID-19 sent challenges her way, she managed to open and remain open through it all.
“The whole coronavirus affected us in a couple different areas,” Hull said.
Before COVID-19 began impacting Maryville, Hull had several volunteers coming regularly, but afterwards they went home to be with their families. Hull also had to cancel all fundraising events she had planned because social distancing could not be maintained.
Despite Hull having to run the shelter by herself, she has still managed to keep it open to the public by following the recommended Centers for Disease Control guidelines for small businesses. Some of the guidelines are limiting the number of people in the building at a time and requiring partakers to wear masks when inside.
Hull also allows people in by appointment rather than having set business hours for being open so she can have time between each person to sanitize door knobs and disinfect frequent contact points.
“Instead of being open set hours, we’re doing it by appointment only to be able to sanitize between people,” Hull said. “We’ve had quite a bit of adoptions.”
Hull explained how more people have been putting cats up for adoption because of an increase in job loss, but people are also more interested in adopting cats right now because it gives them a companion in a time of need.
An article published in April 2020 by the Petfood Industry said that since COVID-19, fostering applications have surged to as much as tenfold.
Since opening, Hull has adopted out over 150 cats and now has 20 cats left for adoption. Hull also said that she is currently limiting how many cats she is taking in because of costs.
Though the cat shelter is doing well in numbers, Hull did have to cancel all of the fundraising events she originally had planned. As of late, she has been operating with donations and out of pocket money. For now, none of her events have been scheduled.
The only event Hull has been able to hold was the grand opening of the shelter where she kept in mind the recommended CDC guidelines. Hand sanitizer was available for use and face masks were encouraged.
“We only allowed eight people or less at a time,” Hull said.
Hull has been setting up video chats through Facebook Messenger and Facetime so people can meet the cats before making an appointment.
“They would call us or email us to schedule a time during that day an hour apart from the person before so that way we could sanitize door knobs and stuff,” Hull said.
Hull is currently running the shelter by herself, but she is looking for volunteers to help with the cats and adoptions.