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Animal shelters struggling with lack of volunteers due to pandemic

The PAWS wildlife center has had to get rid of volunteers and interns during the coronavirus pandemic, increasing the workflow for employees.

Work to rehabilitate wildlife in the Northwest continues despite state lockdowns from the coronavirus pandemic. 

However, those who work for the Progressive Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) wildlife center in Lynnwood say they've had to make "major adjustments."

On top of all her other duties, wildlife veterinarian Nicki Rosenhagen is now caring for 10 black bear cubs among a litany of other animals. The cubs were orphaned and PAWS is working to rehabilitate them and release them back into the wild.

"They require daily cleaning, daily feeding. They eat a lot as you can imagine," Rosenhagen said.  "We're getting into the busy season. We're getting lots of baby animals."

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The staff at PAWS is now working without the assistance of volunteers or interns.

"We decided that the fewer people we had coming in and out, the safer everybody would be and it would make us more likely to be able to get back on our feet when this is all over," Rosenhagen said.  

"I'm doing laundry and dishes and sweeping and moping and cleaning cages and things that I haven't done since I was a volunteer," she continued.  

The facility is still taking animals, though donations have reduced dramatically during the pandemic. Adoptions are now by-appointment-only and much of their business has moved online.

"We are doing everything we can to remain open. We're an essential service. People need us, the animals need us. So we will do everything we can to continue to operate," said Heidi Wills, the CEO of PAWS.

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This comes as they head into the busiest time of the year. 

Between April and September, they receive 80% of the animals they'll get all year. That hasn't stopped this year.

"Because we are so strapped from not being able to have volunteers helping us with animal care, it's all falling to our employees and they're going home tired, frankly," Wills continued.

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