When the COVID-19 pandemic began to impact Connecticut, Dog Star Rescue’s incredible group of volunteers stepped up in an unprecedented manner. Every single team within Dog Star Rescue – screeners, fosters, transport, IT, operations and marketing – adapted to this new world, not knowing what was ahead but making sure that our guiding principles remained intact: guiding rescue dogs towards brighter lives.
While the pandemic also impacted each of our personal lives, each volunteer not only rose to the challenge but creatively and quickly worked together to do everything differently, all while interest in dog adoption significantly surged. Dog Star Rescue’s volunteers are the lifeblood of our organization – connected by the love of dog rescue and adaptability to change. Take a look inside how this inspirational group of volunteers spent the last few months, and how our organization and these dogs’ lives have been forever impacted.
Since COVID-19 struck in March 2020, the number of applications to adopt and foster with Dog Star Rescue more than tripled! Our tireless screening team carefully reviewed nearly 2,000 adoption applications and nearly 250 foster applications in just three and a half months. This required a new plan for handling application volume while maintaining the same high standards for screening applicants.
Dog Star Rescue screeners are responsible for processing adoption applications from start to finish. For each application, this includes doing a thorough background check, veterinary check, personal reference check, speaking to landlords, doing interviews, setting up and executing meet and greets for potential adopters and facilitating adoptions. In addition, our screening team worked hard to adjust our processes for meet and greets and adoptions to limit exposure and increase safety measures for both volunteers and adopters.
Even in normal times this is an arduous process, so one can only imagine how difficult this task was, especially with the drastic increase in adoption application volume. Despite it all, our screeners handled this with professionalism and a dedication that most dog rescues could only dream of. In just over three months, we successfully adopted out 215 dogs, a significant increase over the same time in 2019.
Dog Star Rescue, like many rescues, is heavily reliant on our website to provide information to prospective adopters. During the pandemic, our IT team finished a website refresh – resulting in a modern modern look and mobile-friendly experience. This website also includes information about one of our newest programs, Dog Star 4 Vets (DS4V), as well timely information for prospective and past adopters.
Additionally, our IT team was instrumental in taking our previously in-person adoption events to instead be virtual events. The IT Team had been supporting the setup and facilitation of these events weekly since March, when we initially wanted to allow those who couldn’t make an in person event to see available dogs. This virtual solution then became the only way we could do events for some time – connecting dog fosters and potential adopters virtually, through the power of technology. As quite possibly the first rescue organization in the country to successfully pull off virtual dog adoption events, we are now seeing other rescues use similar ideas, including the ASPCA.
The IT team was also instrumental in rapidly putting together a donation platform which was rolled out to the website within 48 hours. This has helped us with general fundraising as well as specific fundraising drives, such as our “Spay It Forward” campaign to support the spaying and neutering of recent puppies in our rescue.
In addition, the IT team set up a fundraising telethon, including coordinating the technology platform, formatting all the individual submissions into one continuous video, putting together a fundraising page in our donation platform, and supporting the DSR volunteers night of the event. In fact, this telethon was selected nationally as one of Givebutter’s “Fundraisers that we are in love with” and was featured in their national newsletter and homepage.
Lastly, the team has tirelessly supported training, troubleshooting, and incident-questions from all areas of the rescue who have been more reliant than ever on various technology platforms. Our IT Team continues to support the roll out of additional technology improvements across the rescue.
Foster parents are a critical part of any dog rescue, and Dog Star Rescue is no exception. With the volume of dogs coming into our rescue, our awesome foster team stepped up as they always do, and fostered nearly every single dog that came into the rescue. This team has also worked hard to recruit new fosters, and because of these amazing families, these dogs had a place to rest their heads, some for the first time ever in a safe environment. Our foster families see some of the most sad dogs that come through our rescue, some emotionally-broken, terrified of people, and who have never known what a home is like. Our foster families have stepped up and shown their love, compassion and warmth – helping to give these dogs a temporary home until their forever family is found. We are so thankful for these
Dog Star Rescue’s team is responsible for coordinating weekly dog transports from shelters in the South. Due to Covid-19, our transport team had to adapt quickly. Initially, Southern states put a pause on dog transport until dogs could safely pass health requirements. When transports were able to send dogs north again, our rescue received double and sometimes triple the number of dogs received pre-pandemic.
In response, the DSR transport team developed new procedures for transport, following guidelines to keep everyone safe while making sure each and every dog was well taken care of. On a typical transport arrival day, the transport team offloads all of the dogs, walks and feeds each pup, manages them through the vetting process, and provides attention/support until each dog’s scheduled pickup time with its adopter or foster. During the COVID-19 pandemic, this same process needed to happen, with an additional challenge of a smaller team and maintaining the safest environment for volunteers and adopters. Because dog transport can be stressful for these pups, the transport team is vital to making dogs feel as comfortable as possible, and ensuring that each dog safely leaves on its journey to a new life.
Last but not least, our Board of Directors and team coordinators have worked harder than ever to make our volunteers’ lives easier. From keeping on top of the latest rules and regulations, to making quick decisions to help the teams and rescheduling commitments, the Dog Star Rescue board of directors and team coordinators have helped support the dramatic changes the rescue has seen.
As a non-profit, our volunteers are our everything. Please help us recognize these amazing individuals because without them, we would have never been able to change the lives of our rescue dogs and the families that have adopted them. If you are interested in becoming a Dog Star Rescue volunteer, learn more and get in touch. And, be sure to follow our rescue on Facebook and Instagram to see the impact we make every day on the lives of our rescue dogs. If you would like to show your support of Dog Star Rescue in the form of a donation, we’re always grateful.