For years, the Streetdog Foundation has been one of the leading groups working to ensure the welfare of animals in Memphis. The group works to identify feral and stray dogs and rehabilitate them through a system of foster homes, until they can be adopted outright.
The group, which is comprised entirely of volunteers, has faced struggles due to limitations put in place by the COVID-19 pandemic. SDF Media Coordinator Laura Lines says one of the main problems faced by the group is trying to balance the safety of volunteers with the needs of dogs in Memphis.
“We follow government and state guidelines, so we have been hesitant to call on a lot of volunteers for an event. Even though we would like to, we can’t do the big organized rescues that we used to do. Typically we have more than 10 people during those events because it takes a whole crew to get our goals accomplished. COVID has really stopped our ability to be able to save a large intake of animals due to use not being able to be in groups.”
The humane and empathetic rescue approach that the SDF uses in their rescues has been another source of their struggles during the COVID pandemic. Though they employ the use of traps, the SDF will stay nearby watching the traps on a camera or in-person to ensure the animals aren’t exposed to the elements for too long. This means that volunteers can spend hours close to one and another, potentially creating a health hazard.
“Very rarely do we get a dog where we open the door and they jump in the car. When it’s a more feral dog, a dog that has been on their own for a while, or a dog that has been mistreated by humans, they are not going to just know we are good people. A lot of the rescue is building a relationship with the dog over a couple of weeks. It may not happen on the first day we go out. It might take weeks before they know our car or they know our scent and trust us enough to come with us. Building that relationship has been hard with many of us not being able to leave our homes.”
Networking and fundraising have also been issues for SDF. The group regularly operates with about 120 volunteers. Though they do have room to board dogs that have undergone medical procedures or are being transferred elsewhere, dogs are kept with fosters. They also rely on community donations to provide services to the community. In the past, they have been able to solve these problems through community events, but as of late they have been struggling.
“The biggest impact to our organization has been not being able to hold in-person fundraising events. It’s sort of a trickle-down problem because those events are where we meet new volunteers and new fosters. It’s been hard because not only are we monetarily suffering we are also struggling to find new people who we can invite to join us in doing the volunteer work.”
Despite their setback, SDF has been working tirelessly to ensure that dogs are safely taken off the streets and given new homes. Though they have been unable to host in-person fundraising events they have plans to transition their in-person fundraising event, Howl At the Moon, into an online experience. To find out more or to help support SDF, visit their website.