Dear Friends of the Santa Cruz SPCA —
I hope that you and your loved ones have stayed safe and well during these uncertain and surreal times. It’s been a couple months since my last update, and I wanted to let you know what’s been happening at the SPCA — as we continue to adjust to the evolving challenges of the COVID-19 crisis.

When the crisis started unfolding in March, we took many unprecedented steps to ensure the well-being of our animals, our staff, and our organization as a whole. As you know, we temporarily closed our physical shelter to the public, moved virtually all of our cats and dogs into foster care, and shifted to an adoption-by-appointment model. We also suspended our Humane Education and other community programs — although we were able to keep our vital Pet Food Pantry open, along with other programs designed to keep pets in their loving homes.

In short, we had to reinvent how we delivered our lifesaving programs. But ingenuity, passion, and sheer determination have been our hallmarks for 80+ years — and never more than now.

However, as the health crisis enters its fourth month, we have been forced to make some very difficult decisions, and enact even more changes to ensure the long-term health of our organization.
We are anticipating that we will be affected physically and financially by the pandemic for at least the next 8-18 months. Losses in revenue from our suspended programs — along with forecasting a longer-term drop in operating donations (which many nonprofits are anticipating right now) — means that we need to further tighten our belt and distill down to our core mission. 
As the SPCA Board of Directors and I reviewed every aspect of our operations, we approached every decision with three key criteria in mind:
a) Being able to achieve our core mission of providing safe harbor to animals in need and rehoming them,
b) Ensuring that we can make the critical move into our new facility in upcoming months, and
c) Keeping our people (staff, volunteers, and community) safe and healthy.  
Following these guiding lights, we have made the following difficult decisions:

We are permanently closing our Capitola Mall Adoption Center and Gift Shop. Although the mall store has played a critical role in our adoption program and community outreach for many years, we have concluded that restarting the core function of the store — adopting animals into new homes — is simply not viable at this time or for many months to come. We also don’t expect shopping patterns to return to normal in the near-term. And with the imminent opening of our new shelter, we will have a single welcoming facility that our community members will be eager to visit for adoption and other services.

We have also been forced to lay off several staff members. Although we succeeded in securing a governmental Payroll Protection Program SBA loan — which enabled us to keep our team together through most of June — the loan does not let us keep payroll going indefinitely. Therefore, we came to the sad but inevitable conclusion that we needed to reduce our staff by four people, and keep a core team of staffers to work alongside and lead our amazing group of volunteers.

We deeply regret that these decisions have been necessitated by the COVID-19 crisis — and especially during a time that was supposed to bring a joyous new chapter to the organization. But taking these decisive actions now helps to ensure that our organization will stay healthy well into the future.

Even as we lament these difficult decisions, there are many things to celebrate. Through our new adoption-by-appointment protocol, more than 30 cats and dogs have been able to find new homes, despite the restrictions of the pandemic! And the remaining shelter animals are happy as can be (blissfully oblivious to the pandemic) in their loving foster homes.

Although many local businesses are starting to reopen, we have decided to keep our tiny bungalow shelter closed to walk-ins.  Until we move into our new facility later this year and can reopen safely with appropriate physical distancing measures in place, we will keep providing our essential services by appointment. Meanwhile, we carry on innovating and reinventing how we do our important work. I’m excited to share that our virtual kids’ summer camp launched last week, and our behaviorist is now offering online dog behavior support sessions!

Once we move into our new facility, we anticipate that many of the new processes that helped us gain efficiencies during this difficult time will become normal processes. This includes our newly expanded foster program; by regularly keeping part of our population shelter-based and part foster-based, we will be able to save even more animals in the future!

And more great news: We were able to fully resume our new shelter construction on May 4! The job site is humming, with many finish subs back at work, including painting and tile —  and it’s really coming together now!

Even though our original plans for a spring 2020 opening had to be sadly shelved due to the sheltering-in-place restrictions, we are now projecting that we can get our temporary Certificate of Occupancy by late summer/early fall. There are still lingering construction uncertainties due to reduced crews and supply chain disruptions, but we are very optimistic that the long-awaited opening is right around the corner!

On the financial front, we have raised 72.4% percent of our capital campaign goal to date. We still need to raise $1,989,166. (Although we have a construction loan that will enable us to complete the project without dipping into operating reserves, it is in the organization’s best long-term interest to fully fund the construction and pay off the loan quickly.)

With the many uncertainties around the pandemic, it is difficult for shelter professionals to assess what future animal needs will be. We are expecting to see many more animals in need as their caregivers struggle with illness or economic challenges. We will continue to creatively problem-solve as we rise to these coming challenges.

Please watch our Facebook page for up-to-the-minute announcements on any further operational changes. You can also visit our website informational page for the latest news or information on how you can help with our most urgent needs (

As always, we are profoundly grateful for your kindness and commitment to the animals. We are getting through these uncertain times together with more determination than ever, and we know we will emerge even stronger on the other side of this. THANK YOU for being there with us — we could not do our lifesaving work without you!

With hope and gratitude,
Alison “Ali” Talley
Executive Director
P.S. Check out just a few of our animals who have been adopted during shelter in place!
The Santa Cruz SPCA provides safe harbor for animals in need and promotes an active humane community through adoption, advocacy, and education.