As soon as Birmingham and surrounding areas started implementing shelter in place orders, Greater Birmingham Humane Society (GBHS) employees undertook a massive pivot of operations. On March 12, 2020, GBHS began increasing efforts to find foster homes for all the pets housed at the Snow Drive Adoption, Transport & Education Center. By March 25, the facility was completely empty for the first time since it opened.

“All animals were placed in foster or adopted out,” reported Allison Black Cornelius, GBHS CEO. “Moving animals into foster care helps lessen the load on staff and allow pets to acclimate to living in a home environment.”

GBHS reported that over 200 families volunteered to provide a temporary or permanent home for a pet in need.

“We are thankful for the hundreds of families who have welcomed a GBHS pet into their home,” said Cornelius. “These foster families have truly lightened the load for our staff during this time.”

Once the facility was cleared, GBHS began filing the building with pet food, medications and other supplies to provide assistance for people in the community struggling to afford necessities for their pets as well as those serving as foster families during the pandemic. Supporters donated funds and purchased items from an Amazon Wishlist while pet stores and suppliers brought items by the truckload to fill the COVID-19 Regional Pet Pantry. The pet pantry operated for nearly a month with tremendous success.

"We know that the COVID-19 pandemic left many families struggling financially. It was our hope that the GBHS COVID-19 Regional Pet Pantry helped alleviate a little of their stress and ensure that our community’s pets are not forgotten.” said Cornelius.

GBHS distributed over 250,000 lbs. of food to area families over 25 days

The Pet Pantry served over 1,500 people and close to 7,000 pets--an average of 278 PER DAY

Over 25 rescue groups and shelters were assisted

More than 200 families volunteered to foster or adopt pets in need

“Not all heroes wear capes! Some just open their hearts and home to a foster pet! We're so grateful for the over 200 families who said YES to fostering a GBHS pet during this unpredictable time. Each one of you is a hero to us!”

Jenna Hartsough bringing home foster dog Baily.

When schools and work places shut their doors, the Hartsough family suddenly found themselves working from home, online learning at home and spending all their time at home. They wanted to find a way to serve the community and safely engage their 13-year-old son and 11-year-old daughter.

“When everything started falling apart with Covid and there were so many needs, we were looking for a way for us to do something to help,” said Rebecca Hartsough. “Unless you had a medical degree and could get out there and do something, you felt helpless.”

Hartsough said they saw GBHS’ calls for foster families on social media and immediately knew that was the way they could help.

“This was a good fit for us. We had never fostered before, but we like dogs, we knew we weren’t going anywhere, and so we decided to try it and see how it goes. We’re so busy usually during schoolyear it would be hard for us to care for a dog that needs a whole lot and balance with kids activities. This made me feel a lot less helpless.”

The Hartsoughs adopted their own dog, Maddie, from GBHS and have participated in multiple service and fundraising opportunities. They are also quick to volunteer when a friend needs a pet sitter.

“We ended up having three different dogs,” said Rebecca. “The first one was a black lab/border colley mix named Bailey. We had her about a week and it was really emotional letting her go. They reached out to us a day or two later with a Jack Russel mix puppy named Miles. We kept him for about a week and a half and friend adopted him.”

After caring for the puppy, the Hartsoughs took a break for a week. But they realized they missed the important diversion that fostering provided.  

“Our third dog was Max, a rat terrier. He was probably our favorite because he needed the most work and came the furthest of all of them in the two weeks we had him.”

Jackson and Jenna Hartsough playing with foster dog Bailey

The Hartsoughs say it’s been really rewarding to receive follow-ups from all the families who adopted. They’ve been excited to get calls letting them know the dogs are doing well and growing and improving.

“Not all dogs come in perfectly ready to be adopted, some of them need a little work. It felt really good to be able to do that. I don’t think we would have been able to foster if it hadn’t been for situation produced by C19. It was really rewarding for us. It took our minds of things. We were able to show our kids how they could help in a time of need. We were able to give animals something they needed—a loving a place to stay for a week.”