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Coronavirus pandemic forces closure of BARK animal shelter in Billings

Posted at 10:29 PM, Mar 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-20 16:31:58-04

Billings Animal Rescue Kare, known as BARK, closed on Tuesday because of the growing coronavirus pandemic.

“We’re an all-volunteer organization and the vast majority of us are older," said Sandy Price, BARK director, on Thursday. "And most of us have some type of illness that would make us deeply compromised. So we had to close our door.”

Public-health officials are recommending the closure of large events and certain businesses to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. They warn the disease does greater harm to older people and those with compromised immune systems.

Price said BARK takes care of about 60 to 100 animals and normally seven to 10 a week get adopted.

“It was very scary to make the decision to close our door, not knowing if we would ever be able to open it back up," Price said. "Closing our door means that we cannot do our adoptions. Not doing adoptions means that we can not make money to pay our rent, our gas bill or our electric bill. Our veterinarian always waits. We always owe her lots of money but she doesn’t press us too hard.”

Coronavirus has caused this challenge for many animal shelters, according to Price.

“Not only across the country, around the world," she said. "They’re having the same type of issues. They’re having supply shortages. They’re having people wanting to relinquish their pets. Pretty much a global problem with the pets right now.”

While potential pet owners cannot go inside the building, Price has another idea to show the animals.

“We can upload videos on our Facebook page," Price said. "And then people could look there, see if they see someone that they might potentially like. Then we can do an outdoor fresh air adoption. "

And adoptions are special for the volunteers.

"It's wonderful," Price said. "It’s very exciting when one of our animals go out of here. Of course it’s a little bit sad because sometimes we get really attached to them. But we know what they came from and we know where they’re going. That’s what keeps us going. That’s our pay.”

Price said the closure also means the shelter has not been receiving other pets.

She is hoping to get the adoptions going on Facebook next week.

According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, COVID-19 cannot be transferred to dogs and cats.

"We do not have evidence that companion animals, including pets, can spread COVID-19," the CDC states on its website.