The Susquehanna SPCA welcomed six pets that lost their homes because of the COVID-19 pandemic Wednesday, May 13.

The four cats and two dogs had been relinquished to the New York City-based nonprofit Animal Care Centers of NYC because their owner either died of COVID-19 or could no longer keep them because of pandemic-related strife. According to the government of New York City’s website, as of May 13 there have been 185,206 COVID-19 cases in the city and 15,233 people have died.

The SQSPCA is a member of the New York State Animal Protection Federation, which helps other state shelters network with each other if they need help. The animals needed somewhere to finish out their quarantines, Shelter Manager and Licensed Veterinary Technician Sara Haddad said, and this is how the SQSPCA became the temporary home of the displaced pets.

The six were driven from New York City to the SQSPCA by Joe Galka, who works with Manhattan-based nonprofit Best Friends Animal Society and has been driving animals in need for the past 10 years.

"It's something that never gets tiring, it never gets old," Galka said. "Every animal is like a brand new someone you're meeting."

The pets are adjusting as expected to a new location, according to SQSPCA Executive Director Stacie Haynes.

“Dogs and cats can grieve and they’re very confused,” Haynes said. “These are city pets and now they’re up here and everything’s turned upside down so that’ll take time, but it’s not unusual for animals to act anxious when they reach the shelter.”

The animals will stay in the shelter's isolation building for 14 days to make sure they're not sick and will only be allowed to meet the public once this period is over, Haynes said. Staff who come into contact with them will wear a mask and gloves and will change their clothes before they see the other animals.

To date, two cats and one dog in the United States have tested positive for the virus.

One of the dogs does have a cough, Haddad said. The dog's vet suspected it was kennel cough, which is a common condition, but the shelter will take all necessary precautions.

"Because you can't take chances, we’re going to treat him as if he does have it (COVID-19) and act as if they all have it," Haynes said.

Although they are anxious, the animals are already showing their personalities, Haynes said. For example, 9-year-old dog Ollie acts young and spunky, while Max, who is two years his junior, acts older.

In the beginning weeks of April, Haynes said, fosters increased by 33% but not as many people are fostering now. She said she expects to see more people surrendering animals and less able to foster because of financial hardship caused by the pandemic. However, the shelter stands ready with enough kennels, cages and staff to get through these times and also help animals from different areas in the state, she said.

Partnering with fellow shelters is important, Haynes said. She recalled when the shelter's isolation building flooded in late October because of heavy rains and high winds.

"It's a serious issue for us," Haynes said. "If our shelter floods and we’re displaced, we're going to need to lean on other animal shelters to help us. The more we partner and more we help other animal shelters, just the better it is for everybody, and at the end of the day it's for animals. It doesn’t matter where they came from, we're helping animals and that’s what it's all about."

Shweta Karikehalli, staff writer, can be reached at skarikehalli@thedailystar.com or 607-441-7221. Follow her @DS_ShwetaK on Twitter.

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