NORMAN — As COVID-19 cases in Oklahoma continue to rise, the Norman Police Department issued new updates regarding the operations of Norman Animal Welfare Center.
According to a press release from NPD, Animal Welfare will continue to be operated by staff but is closed to the public until further notice. Services also will be limited to the public indefinitely.
Sarah Jensen, NPD public information officer, said the new procedures are to limit the risk of spreading COVID-19 to Animal Welfare staff. There are 109 cases of COVID-19 in Oklahoma and 22 cases in Cleveland County, including one death, according to the Oklahoma State Department of Health.
As of March 20, adoption fees for animals at the shelter are waived until further notice. Adoptions are available only through appointment by contacting Animal Welfare directly. Animal Welfare also is not accepting any stray animals to its facility at this time.
Residents are encouraged to not keep or detain any found or stray animals unless they are willing to keep them until the owner is located. However, Animal Welfare staff will continue to take calls regarding stray animals and residents are encouraged to call the shelter if they locate a stray animal.
Jensen said these new policies are an attempt to open space in the shelter and divert resources and staff to other areas.
"We want our facility handle any forthcoming issues or capacity-related issues as we move through the pandemic," Jensen said. "We're anticipating an increase in calls and potential needs that are going to come down the road.
"This is a time of year when we typically see an increase in animals to the shelter, so if we can get animals to safe homes, we'll be able to open up space in the facility. That will ultimately allow us to be more prepared. This is uncharted territory, but we are taking necessary steps to help the residents and animals in Norman."
Owner-surrender, animal quarantine, in-person pet licensing and owner-requested euthanasia services also have been suspended until further notice to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and keep space available at Animal Welfare, Jensen said.
Kate Bierman, Ward 1 city council member, said it's possible the suspension of services like owner-surrenders could increase the stray animal population within city limits, but it's consistent with the actions of city shelters in other areas.
"I don't necessarily believe there are things we can do to mitigate [the potential increase], but we do have to prepare for that," Bierman said. "There's gonna be pressure on our rescue organizations and our shelter to prepare for that. We are resource-limited, even in good times, and the stray animal population has been an issue in Norman for a while. But we have an excellent staff at our shelter, and our hope is doing things like waiving adoption fees will help people find a home for pets, which would free up space in our shelter."
Second Chance Animal Sanctuary will continue operating Wednesday through Sunday, but by appointment only. Second Chance does not accept stray animals or owner-surrenders but is continuing to accept donations and offer animals for adoption.
Jensen said as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, it will be important with Animal Welfare and residents to work together to help prevent further issues.
"We work to serve the City of Norman, and we ask residents to continue to contact us," Jensen said. "We just want to make sure we manage our population of animals so our staff can work to provide services for the city."
To find out more updates or to adopt an animal, visit normanpd.normanok.gov or call 292-9736. To report a stray or loose animal, call 421-1444.
Jesse Crittenden366-3540Follow me @email@example.com