By Pete Kristian
The Humane Society of Truckee-Tahoe is an organization used to taking on challenges.
Founded by a small group of volunteers in 1994, HSTT was outgrowing the shelter at the old Town of Truckee corporate yard. Many animals were housed in foster homes and adoption days were held in the Safeway parking lot. In the midst of the great recession it began fundraising for a modern shelter. HSTT formed a partnership with the Town of Truckee and, after raising millions of dollars, Remy’s Rescue opened on Sept. 28, 2013. Operations expanded to serve South Lake Tahoe in December 2019. Then, in March, HSTT was faced with its latest challenge: The COVID-19 pandemic meant the shelter would have to close to the public.
What makes the HSTT wheel turn? Fundraising. Black Tie and Tails, HSTT’s annual signature fundraiser, was canceled in May. The Brews Jazz and Funk event normally held in August was also scrapped. A Giving Tuesday fundraiser in May was very successful, but with events hard to coordinate and execute, HSTT was going to have to pivot, and so a virtual run fundraiser was soon organized: A successful Balls in the Ruff golf tournament was held at Schaffer’s Mill early September, with COVID restrictions still in place.
Sudden challenges ultimately led to creativity.
The need for HSTT services has never been greater. Its CEO, Stephanie Nistler, sees the possibility of hard times ahead. “With 30 to 40 million people facing eviction in the near future, and approximately 72% of them having at least one pet in the home, we know there will be a large influx of animals being turned into shelters when people run out of options,” she said. “Considering Truckee/Tahoe already has an existing housing crisis, we are not insulated from this issue. First and foremost, we want people to know we’re here for them if they need us.”
While the shelter will always take in animals needing a home, HSTT would prefer to keep pet owners with their pets. One way to help is through the Pet Pantry, which for many years has provided people in need with free donated pet food and cat litter. Since April, HSTT has distributed 6,500 pounds of pet food and 650 pounds of cat litter. Donations of food have always been adequate to keep the pantry full in the past, but for the first time, HSTT has been purchasing pet food to keep the shelves stocked. Veterinary medical assistance is also available to those facing challenges. And as if the pandemic didn’t present enough in the way of challenges, raging wildfires affecting much of California have increased the need for shelter services. HSTT has taken in animals from shelters around the state so there can be room for displaced pets in local shelters in wildfire areas.
If you have tried to make a veterinary appointment this summer, maybe you noticed that local clinics are swamped. It can be hard to get appointments for vaccines and spay/neuter surgeries. While HSTT has been able to provide the latter, there was a pause when the pandemic began. Still, 150 pets received spay/neuter assistance in South Lake so far in 2020. Efforts in Sierra County to trap, spay or neuter, and return feral cats to keep the population under control fell behind during the height of breeding season. Everyone is playing catch-up.
The pace of adoptions — which slowed in the spring — has also picked up. April and May of 2020 saw a combined 45 adoptions. Now virtual, an average of 52 pets found homes in June, July, and August. The adoption business is booming.
What can people do to help? With the shelter not open to the public, volunteer opportunities are limited. HSTT always needs and appreciates financial support. Donate unopened bags of dog, cat, rabbit, and bird food as well as litter at the shelter to help keep the Pet Pantry stocked.
In the near future, HSTT will also be looking for foster homes.
For more information visit hstt.org.