Since 2017, journalist and animal expert Larissa Wohl has helped more than 2,000 animals find their forever homes. What started as a small idea and a passion for rescuing animals, eventually led to a spot on the Hallmark Channel with ‘Adoption Ever After’. Today, Larissa leads the pack on the rescue show while also being a successful on-air journalist. With the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping the globe, we chatted with Larissa about why rescuing and fostering animals is more important than ever.
How do you think the Coronavirus pandemic is going to impact rescue animals?
Hi HOLR Mag! Thank you for having me on here to discuss such an important topic that means so much to me. I hope I can help provide some insight into why fostering and adopting is absolutely crucial in this time of need.
The coronavirus Is going to affect rescue animals in SO many ways and now is the time we really need to rally to help make a difference! Because animal shelters across the country are closing their doors and working by appointment only, many people aren’t going to go that extra mile to see what animals are for adoption. In addition to that, private rescue groups are cancelling all their adoption events because of social distancing, so the animals in THEIR care aren’t being adopted either. That means that while animals will still be turned IN to shelters and rescues (stray animals, owner surrenders, accidental litters, etc…), no animals are going OUT. This leads to a very serious math problem where there won’t be enough room to house them all and euthanasia will have to take place for space. The other important issue is that many people are losing their jobs and won’t have the financial ability to care for their animals as time goes on. Vet visits, food, basic care, etc…can all add up with pets and the longer this coronavirus goes on, the more of a financial burden animals may become.
We read that shelters all across LA are shutting down – can you please tell us what’s going to happen to all of the dogs?
Most shelters across the country have publicly stated that they are carefully caring for all the animals in their shelters. That said, (just like humans) the longer an animal is kept in a cage, the more it loses hope, goes stir crazy and develops health and behavioral issues. That’s why moving them out of the shelters in a timely manner is so important. Many shelters and rescue organizations have done a wonderful job getting as many animals into foster care right now, which will make a world of difference for the time being. That said, they will still need to find forever homes as people head back to work and can no longer foster!
Where can people begin to look if they want to foster or adopt a dog?
I always recommend people start their search at their local government run shelter because they’re usually the facilities that need the most help and have the least amount of resources. In addition to that, a couple great places to go are Adoptapet.com and Petfinder.com. When you log on, you can actually type in your zip code and even some of the characteristics you’re looking for in a pet. Then the website will populate animals that fit your criteria. Once you see one you like, you can find out what rescue or facility he/she is located at and contact them directly. Most rescues and shelters are asking for you to fill out a foster application online and wait for them to contact you. Please remember most of them are quite busy right now and it may take a few days to get a reply!
Can you explain what the fostering process is like? Is the foster responsible for costs associated with the dog?
Fostering an animal is an amazing learning experience! Again, like adopting, each rescue or shelter has their own protocols for fostering. Usually they require you to go on their website and fill out a foster application. The rescue/shelter will then call you to review and ask some additional questions. A home visit may be done as well to ensure the animal will be safe in your home and can’t easily escape. The shelters or rescues usually provide all necessary items for fostering such as a crate, food, medical items, etc…
If the animal needs to be seen by a vet or ongoing vet appointments, the rescue will pay all the costs.
As the foster, it is your job to keep the animal safe and loved and allow it to relax and unwind from the stress it’s been under. As the animal comes to learn that you and your home are safe, it’s then your job to help remind the animal how to be the best pet possible! That may mean introducing it to other animals, teaching it simple commands or manners, etc…
All of these things are fun, fulfilling and set them up for success in their future forever home!
Please remember that fostering is a commitment, though, and you have to go into it knowing that most of these animals aren’t perfect right away. They may need help learning boundaries and what is right and wrong. Try to realize that this is all part of the process and your role is to help guide them and help fill the gap where other humans may have failed them.
When did you first get involved with rescuing animals?
My mother was a huge animal lover and rescuer, so I have MANY memories of her bringing home pets of all types! Cats, rabbits, birds, you name it! Because of her, I grew up with a heart to heal and a passionate to save the underdogs (and cats) of the world. My passion only intensified when I became a news anchor and reporter and lived in numerous cities across the country. I had time on my hands because I hadn’t yet developed any friends in these new locations so I started volunteering at animal shelters. It was during that time I TRULY realized how MASSIVE the problem was across the country. Every single day of the year, animal shelters in almost every city are packed to the brim with AMAZING animals that aren’t given a chance to shine. It breaks my heart and I knew I had to work to be their voice!
Is there a rescue experience that stands out to you over the years? Can you tell us about the first one that comes to mind?
It’s hard to pick one story because they’re all so special to me! One that immediately comes to mind is about a little Yorkshire Terrier named Liberty. She was just a baby when we featured her on Hallmark Channel’s “Home & Family” and she had just been rescued for the shelter because they couldn’t handle her special needs and were about to euthanize her.
Liberty has a neurological condition that affects her coordination. A viewer in New York saw her on our show and immediately reached out to the rescue she was with, SavingK9LivesPlus in Los Angeles. Liberty was transported to New York and is now living her absolute best life. Liberty’s mom has made it her mission to help other special needs animals and remind people that just because they’re different, doesn’t mean they aren’t amazing!
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The rain couldn’t stop our life saving efforts today at #stlandryparishanimalcontrol in Opelousas, LA. #tailsofjoy helped load 150 dogs that will NOW get a 2nd chance at life. Thanks to the AMAZING village that came out to help today including @cathy_bissell @fionaappleig @pawworks @oliverandwillow and MANY more! ❤️?? . . . #petrescueexpert #hallmarkchannel #homeandfamilytv #larissawohl #adoptioneverafter #savedbythel #adopt #adoption #adoptdontshop #dog #dogs #dogsofinstagram #foster #fosteringsaveslives #instadogs #dogsofinstagram #grateful #bestjobever #puppy #puppies #puppylove #shelterdogs #tailsofjoy #rain #rainwontstopus #bissell #bissellpetfoundation
What’s one of the most rewarding parts of your job?
There are so many rewarding parts of my job! First and foremost, the fact we’ve helped almost 1500 animals find their forever homes on “Home & Family” fills my heart with joy. The second part I love is being able to educate viewers on the importance of rescuing and adoption. Many people still don’t understand how incredibly rampant the problem is and how horrific breeding can be. Backyard breeders and puppy mills are everywhere and they put profits above the care of the animals. This leads to many problems that most people aren’t aware of. I’m happy to be able to try and expose these horrors and persuade people to be part of the solution instead of adding to the problem.
Why is it important for people to foster and adopt at this time in particular?
Currently, adopting and fostering is absolutely critical because we are living in a situation we’ve never experienced or imagined. COVID-19 has forced shelters and rescues around the country to close their doors and cancel their adoption events. Many of them are still open by appointment, but that makes the process a little more complicated and time consuming.
Unfortunately that road block may stop people from taking the step to adopt, thus these poor babies aren’t given the opportunity at a second chance. That, combined with the fact that animals are still being turned in to shelters leads to a HUGE math problem. Animals coming in + 0 animals leaving = euthanasia.
As I mentioned above, this problem isn’t going to end quickly. Even if life resumes for most of us in a couple months, we are going to see animals being turned into the shelter for a long time because people won’t have the discretionary income they once had. Please remember that even if you can’t adopt or foster right now, there will be a massive need for it in the future as well as for volunteers and donations.