Tag: Southwest

Pet adoptions increase during pandemic in Southwest Florida



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Fewer people appeared able to resist a wagging tail, twitching whiskers or even the scaly skin of a reptile as the pandemic swept the world.

While COVID-19 disrupted and closed many businesses, Southwest Florida animal rescue workers are working their tails off with an increase in adoptions and animal intake.

Karen Prohaska and her husband, Bob Von Gyurcsy, of Fort Myers, were fostering a senior dog named Gatsby, 9, for the Gulf Coast Humane Society in February. The plan was to bring him back, but with the pandemic they decided to keep him a bit longer.

Gatsby suffered from allergies that caused a rash, which required medical baths and care. Retirees, Prohaska and Von Gyurcsy didn’t mind helping Gatsby and during a time of uncertainty, they welcomed the distraction.

Gatsby helped them just as much. He gave the couple a routine and taking care of him kept their minds off the pandemic, Prohaska said.

They’d go for walks and car rides, ultimately the couple fell in love with Gatsby.

“It was such a saving grace during the pandemic to have an animal, when your anxiety is high and your fear factor we felt fortunate to have him,” she said.

Ebb and flow

The humane society, in Fort Myers, Executive Director Jennifer Galloway said the interest in adopting is a continuous cycle. One moment the shelter feels empty and the next it’s filled again.

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Alicia Fuller, the lead kennel tech at the Gulf Coast Humane Society finishes up bathing a newly acquired dog on Tuesday, October 6, 2020.  (Photo: Andrew West, The News-Press)

Compared to 2019 the agency’s dog adoption has increased by 242 and their cat adoption increased by 564, totaling 1,239 adopted dogs and 997 adopted cats so far in 2020.  

Read: Lee County Domestic Animal Services to host Adopt-A-Less-Adoptable-Pet Week

Read: Cape Coral’s first animal shelter opens. Adoptions start Thursday

The humane society, nearing a decade of operation, is more than just a dog and cat adoption center. It has a rehab facility where workers care for sick and injured animals, as well as a surgery facility where workers conduct spaying and neutering.

It also has a veterinary clinic where the animals are vaccinated, microchipped and have dental work done. This service is open to the public.

Once the pandemic made its way to Southwest Florida, Galloway said the agency wasn’t sure what was going to happen — and that was the hardest part.

Her board members weren’t sure if they were going to have to close, so they put out a plea for foster homes. They received more than 200 applications for fosters and about 90% of the people who fostered at the start of COVID-19 ended up adopting their foster animal.

The human society also wasn’t sure if it was going to get inundated with surrendered pets.

The newly opened Cape Coral Animal Shelter Executive Director Liz McCauley, said the  group is exceeding expectations.


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Southwest Airlines warns furloughs, wage cuts still possible without more government aid

Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly told employees Thursday that the Dallas-based airline may still have to furlough workers or cut wages and benefits if the aviation industry doesn’t get another round of economic aid.

Southwest, which has said it won’t furlough employees this year even as competitors began letting go of workers Thursday, is still lobbying for Congress to extend the Payroll Support Program that gave $25 billion in grants to airlines to cover worker costs and another $25 billion in loans.

“But, I need to be honest with you and remind you, if the PSP extension fails, as we have warned for months, we’ll be forced to find a way to further reduce our spending, reduce our salaries, wages and benefits specifically by seeking concessions, or as a last resort, layoffs and furloughs,” Kelly said in the video message to employees posted Thursday afternoon.

Passengers walk through a largely empty check-in area for American Airlines at Miami International Airport during the coronavirus pandemic, Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2020, in Miami. The airline industry has been decimated by the pandemic. The Payroll Support Program given to the airlines as part of the CARES Act runs out Thursday. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

A similar program passed in March and expired Wednesday. The airline industry is still down about 70% from a year ago because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite bipartisan support in Washington, D.C., an extension is far from certain.

Southwest, which has never laid off or furloughed employees, avoided worker cuts by getting more than a quarter of its workforce to take voluntary leave and retirement, grounding planes and drastically cutting its schedule.

Nearby American Airlines, based in Fort Worth, began furloughing and laying off a combined 19,000 employees on Thursday. Without more government aid, American Airlines CEO Doug Parker said, the company needs to adjust to an airline industry that has significantly less demand.

Parker told White House officials that American could recall furloughed workers if a deal is passed soon.

Chicago-based United Airlines is furloughing 13,000 employees as well.

Southwest has been slightly better positioned because it had less debt and does less international flying than its major competitors. But the carrier has still taken out billions of dollars in loans in recent months and burned through about $20 million of cash a day in August.

Kelly and other executives have also taken 20% salary cuts. Worker unions have so far resisted wage and benefit concessions, saying Southwest has an overstaffing problem, not a compensation problem.

“But, without the extension of PSP, we know all that won’t be enough,“ Kelly said. “The payroll support that we received in the original federal aid package has allowed us to avoid those difficult actions all the way through the end of this year, but you have to know that we are not immune to this.”

Kelly has said travel demand likely won’t recover significantly until a vaccine or effective treatment for COVID-19 is developed. Until then, Southwest and other carriers may have to rely on government assistance, at least for the next six months, he said.

“We are not there yet,” Kelly said. “And, in the meantime, we await some action from Washington.”

Congressional leaders are talking with the White House about a deal for an extension of economic stimulus, which could include aid for airlines. But

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