AHeinz57 Pet Rescue and Transport, out of De Soto, is a foster-based animal rescue that has also been affected by COVID-19. AHeinz57, founded by Executive Director Amy E. Heinz, takes in homeless dogs and cats for most of Dallas County and counties west, south, and north of Dallas County. They provide animal control services, free of charge, for Dallas County. They also pull dogs from kill shelters who are scheduled to be euthanized.

“I started AHeinz57 in August of 2008 after moving here from California and finding out that there was nobody helping homeless dogs in my community, while trying to help a dog dumped on the Interstate,” Heinz said.

Heinz witnessed the dog being dumped on the Interstate the day before Easter Sunday in March of 2008. She details her entire dog rescue at https://www.aheinz57.com/amazing-grace/.

“Homeless and shelter animals have no idea there is a pandemic, so we are just as busy as we usually are,” Heinz said.

Heinz said at the beginning of March, adoptions dropped dramatically, but now that people are stuck at home, people have shown a greater interest in adopting or fostering a pet.

“COVID-19 just might be the best thing to happen to shelter pets,” Heinz said.

Heinz has taken precautions during COVID-19. Since the beginning of March, volunteers and staff are not allowed in the buildings for two weeks if they have been out of state. They also remain out for two weeks if they have been around someone who has been out of state. They have a sanitizing schedule at the end of each shift. There are four shifts per day.

“We are practicing the six-foot distancing, and when we can’t, we wear masks and gloves,” Heinz said.

They are also changing their process of pet adoptions and fostering, including doing home visits virtually through FaceTime or Facebook Messenger. The home visits are done to make sure someone’s home is a good fit for the animal they are interested in. Adoption paperwork is being done via email.

“We are doing meet and greets outside in fenced areas,” said Heinz. “Cats are a little trickier. Only one person from a family is allowed inside at a time to meet cats and they are questioned about their health and whereabouts.”

Due to COVID-19, AHeinz57 is operating on less money. Some of their programs had to be stopped. They have had to lay off a few of the shelter staff and they don’t have as much inventory to send home to the foster families, like cleaning supplies and cat litter.

“We are in desperate need of financial donations and supplies that are listed on our wish list on Amazon,” said Deb Elings, the AHeinz57 Board President. “People can drop off donations at our doors or mail to our building at [Gracie’s Place] 4000 Ash Street, DeSoto, IA 50069.”

AHeinz57 also owns Gracie’s Place where they offer boarding and grooming services. Gracie’s Place is located right next to the animal rescue. All funds received at Gracie’s Place go to fund the animal rescue at AHeinz57.

Their boarding building is essentially empty right now, which is hurting them financially. This is usually their busy season.

“We are now part of Dallas County Emergency Management, so we are able to accept dogs [and] cats that need care for people of Dallas County that are in the hospital due to COVID-19,” Elings said.

They will also board animals for first responders and healthcare workers if their hours increase and they struggle to get home to care for their pets.

“If Dallas County residents are having trouble making ends meet and can’t afford to feed their pets, we can provide them with cat or dog food to get them through this tough time,” Heinz said. “We want to help keep pets in their homes!”