Behind the scenes at Best Friends in L.A. during COVID-19 pandemic

Most places are temporarily shuttered in L.A. right now, but there’s still a lot going on every day at the Best Friends Lifesaving Center. Even though all the animals were moved over from the NKLA center and we’re still taking in pets from Los Angeles Animal Services, the willing response from the public to foster and adopt pets has been record-breaking. Pets are moving into homes at such a rate that the shelter is emptier than it has ever been.

Free roam cat room with lots of shelves and other fun items for cats to play on and in

Pets at the center are getting plenty of love and attention, too — whether sitting tight while their adoptions are finalized, taking a little more time to brush up on behavior skills, or just staying put to heal from a medical issue,

Man holding a toy next to a dog, intently staring at the toy from on an agility ramp

“Since off-site outings have decreased (due to social distancing guidelines), parks and trails are closed, and because of our commitment to keeping our community safe, we’ve gotten creative to provide extra enrichment, activity and comfort for the dogs in our care,” says Leah Lindamood, manager of animal programs for Best Friends in Los Angeles.

Person wearing a mask and Best Friends hat next to a black shepherd dog, while outside in an agility yard

The play yards at the center have been outfitted with more toys, as well as extra supplies for agility, nose work and other types of training. And the staff parking lot was transformed by a group of volunteers into a "barking lot," complete with creative enrichment and training stations, a toy treasure chest and a snuffle station that features snuffle mats and toy bins.

Man doing scent training with a dog with a bunch of overturned cardboard boxes

The ”Grand Central” train(ing) stations were designed for learning cues and tricks.

[Woman giving directions to a dog sitting on a Sit platform with a blue tarp background held by wooden pallets

The nature station comes complete with grass patches and foliage, and the agility station features agility jumps and tunnels.

Woman walking Welby the dog in a grass yard

And since it wouldn’t be Los Angeles without a nod to Hollywood, the red carpet station (which is technically blue) features gymnastic mats forming a walking pathway to protect paws.

Woman wearing a mask and walking Welby the dog on a blue walkway

All that playing and learning can be exhausting, so the meet-and-greet rooms were repurposed into relaxation suites, complete with comfy bedding, toys, aromatherapy, grooming supplies and music.

Shaggy dog holding a purple toy n his mouth while a man wearing a mask sits on a bench behind him petting him

Due to the success of the virtual meet-and-greets that allow people to find and adopt a pet without having to leave their homes, just a few cats remain at the center. But just like the dogs, they also are getting plenty of extra one-on-one time, socialization and enrichment (and maybe a few extra naps, too).

Siamese kitten sitting on a woman's shoulder while she works on a computer

Since kitten season isn’t going to stop for the coronavirus, the Best Friends Kitten Care Center is already taking in the tiniest kittens, with all them needing around-the-clock care in foster homes to grow big and strong.

Tiny neonatal black and white kitten sleeping on a blanket

There have even been a few puppies at the center in the recent weeks.

Woman wearing a mask holding a fluffy white puppy with gloved hands

As you can see, the center being closed to the public doesn’t mean the panic button has been pushed with regard to helping L.A.’s homeless pets. In fact, when it comes to finding creative, innovative ways to save lives, you could say the team is just getting started.

Donate and help keep the lifesaving going

Best Friends in Los Angeles works collaboratively with animal rescue groups, city shelters and passionate individuals, all dedicated to the mission of making Los Angeles a no-kill city. As part of this mission, Best Friends hosts adoption and fundraising events, manages two pet adoption centers, and leads the No-Kill Los Angeles (NKLA) initiative. Together, we will Save Them All.

Photos by Lori Fusaro