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What Can Animal Sanctuaries Do During The COVID-19 Outbreak?

A drawing of an illuminated light bulb on a sticky note tacked to a cork board.
A few ideas during this challenging period!

Other COVID-19 Resources:

Financial Measures For Animal Sanctuaries In The United States Impacted By The COVID-19 Outbreak (As Of April 7, 2020)

More Questions And Answers About COVID-19 For Animal Sanctuaries

How Should Sanctuaries Respond To COVID-19?

Digital Tools Your Animal Sanctuary Can Utilize During The COVID-19 Outbreak

Barn Sanctuary’s COVID-19 Resources For Sanctuaries


We know that sanctuaries around the world are faced with a tremendous challenge in this time of cancelled visits, tours, and events, in addition to restricted volunteering and concerns of supply chain consistency. While by no means comprehensive, we have some ideas of what sanctuaries can do during this difficult time.

Review And Update Contingency Plans

We know we are in the thick of it now, so it may seem like a strange time to start contingency planning, or revise any plans you already have. However, this situation can offer particularly helpful insight into what needs the sanctuary might have in similar future situations.

  • If you haven’t already, use this current situation to motivate you to develop contingency plans. It may seem daunting but we can help with that! Check out our contingency planning workbook here. 
  • Ask care staff for their input. They have an important perspective that should be considered with regards to emergency plans.
  • Work with your board to assess particular risks for the sanctuary.
  • If you already have a contingency plans, use this time to see if they need revisions or additions.
  • Think about any supplies, medication, or necessary purchases the sanctuary may need to make in anticipation of constrained shipments or production, and prioritize their acquisition if it seems like the outlook for this outbreak isn’t clearing anytime soon in the coming days or weeks.

Review And Update Budgets and Fundraising Strategies

This can be a good time to review fundraising goals for the sanctuary and consider how those needs may have changed.

Engage Supporters Online

This is a great time to increase your sanctuary’s online outreach. Sanctuaries have already employed excellent strategies in this time to reach the public, including:

Check In On Your Supporters and Community

Don’t forget that we are all in this together! This situation can be an opportunity to connect in a new and special way, as well all make these changes to ensure a healthier future for everyone.  While your core animal care staff likely won’t have time for any extra tasks during this time, if your sanctuary has enacted a policy asking volunteers and non-caregiving staff to stay away from the sanctuary grounds, these individuals may be able to help out in other ways. Consider:  

  • Reaching out to adopters, fosterers, and volunteers to check if there are any needs you can assist with for them or the broader community. For example, you may ask non-caregiving staff or volunteers if they can pick up food for both humans and non-human animals when making necessary trips for sanctuary supplies. (Remember to limit interactions with other humans and follow the latest recommendations from health and governmental agencies in your region!)
  • Asking a volunteer to reach out to the local food bank to see what supplies they need for those suffering from the economic impact of the quarantine. Perhaps your volunteer base would be interested in running a mini food drive for them and picking up donated supplies on porches or having supporters drop them off in a designated area and, if safe and advisable, coordinating a pick up or drop off for the food bank. 
  • Checking in on other sanctuaries and micro sanctuaries in the area. See if they have any needs your sanctuary can help with. Do you have a surplus of supplies that they need? If possible, share. Building strong organizational and community connections is critical in challenging times like these.

Practice Self Care, And Encourage Others To Do The Same

While providing care for residents and facing new challenges during this time, don’t forget to practice self care and encourage other staff members to do the same. 

  • Whenever possible, abide by the safety suggestions of health and government organizations in your region.
  • Eat well, stay hydrated, and practice calming activities that promote a healthy immune system.
  • Seek support. Stay in touch with positive friends, family members, and peers.
  • If you become ill or have any concerns of carrying the virus, self-qurantine and contact your medical provider. While this may place stress on other staff members, it won’t help to transmit the illness to others, effectively placing the entire staff in jeopardy.
Updated on August 3, 2020

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