Orlando pet rescue relies on foster parents during pandemic

High school senior combines virtual learning with virtual adoptions

Keeping up with adoptions is always a challenge at the Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando.

ORLANDO, Fla. – Keeping up with adoptions is always a challenge at the Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando.

But the combination of summer “kitten season” and the pandemic has created a unique problem.

Foster Care Coordinator, Susan Russell, said nearly every day someone is dropping off a new litter.

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“We’ve probably had 800 kittens in the past two months come through here,” Russell explained.

When the pandemic started the rescue closed it’s doors to volunteers and to potential adopters. The shelter then began relying on a group of volunteers who had been helping from home all along.

Foster volunteers were able to take in most of the cats and kittens that were left without a home.

Russell said the volunteers have been a big part of the adoption process ever since.

Pet Alliance set up virtual adoptions where people could see and visit the animals online.

“We started it (virtual adoptions) because of the pandemic and we are continuing it because it’s working so well,” Russell said.

Alyssa DeHart is one of those volunteers. The 17-year-old high school senior began fostering last spring when she found herself with more time at home.

“When the pandemic started and it was my summer, it was the perfect opportunity to get involved,” DeHart said. “I’ve been doing it ever since.”

DeHart has devoted a room in her home to the foster program. Cat toys are scattered around the space and the three residents, Maple, Laurel and Willow take turns with their favorites.

The kittens are 9-months-old and ready to go home with their new owners.

The three kittens are just the latest felines to come into DeHart’s care. DeHart has been able to find homes for 22 other kittens.

DeHart takes advantage of virtual visits and an Instagram account that gives potential adopters a chance to get to know the animals.

“They all have unique personalities,” she says as Maple pulls at a tread on her jeans.

Russell says putting young feral kittens in foster care allows them to grow, get healthy and become socialized. “When Alyssa takes them they get socialized. When they’re ready for adoption they’re happy, playful and friendly.”

DeHart has also coordinated a number of food drives, collecting food and supplies for the nonprofit. She hopes to one day have a rescue of her own.

If You would like more information on how you can become a foster volunteer please visit the Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando website.

About the Author:

Paul is a Florida native who graduated from the University of Central Florida. As a multimedia journalist, Paul enjoys profiling the people and places that make Central Florida unique.