Sick puppy saved by COVID-19 grant for pet families

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WALTON COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB) — The stay-at-home orders put in place during the coronavirus inspired many Americans to adopt or foster pets. One local chef was no exception.

“Right when all this COVID stuff started happening, we were given an eight-week furlough, and I figured it was as good a time as any to get a puppy because I’d be able to spend time with him,” said Chad Donelson, Bitteroot executive chef.

“The next day he ended up getting sick and I took him into Dr. Baxter’s and they didn’t think he was even going to make it through the day,” he added. “And we found out he had hookworm anemia and parvo. And kind of at that time, not working, it was like, how am I going to afford any of that stuff?”

If untreated, the parvo virus is deadly, said Lauri Hood, Alaqua Animal Refuge founder.

“He was devastated and he didn’t have the money to pay for it,” Hood said. “So we chipped in, Freeport Vet Clinic chipped in part of the money, because it’s very expensive to treat, and the puppy survived.”

“He’s the best dog in the world,” Donelson said. “It’s crazy because everything that he went through, he’s a different kind of puppy. I never even had to discipline him, he already knew kind of how to house train himself. It was really weird, his whole demeanor was completely different.”

The Alaqua Animal Refuge was just awarded a $5,000 grant as part of a $50,000 grant given to 10 different animal welfare organizations impacted by the pandemic to help pets and pet families like Donelson who have been affected by COVID.

“A lot of the vet clinics shut down,” Hood said, “people had lost their jobs at that time and unfortunately they were having to surrender their pets.”

COVID has had a large affect on pet owners nationwide.

“The big fear is that once people went back to work they were going to start returning some of these animals and we have seen a little bit of that,” Hood said.

While shelter intake in the south is down since last year, the amount of animals surrendered by owner is up by two percentage points, according to the Shelter Animals Count national database.

“More so though you see people that took in puppies and the puppy gets used to being home with the individuals all day long, so now we’re seeing a lot of separation anxiety with young puppies,” Hood said. 

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