Dr. J.J. Rawlinson

Senior Manager, Community Partnerships and Welfare Initiatives, Wallis Annenberg PetSpace

J.J. Rawlinson

In 2016, Dr. J.J. Rawlinson helped launch a new state-of-the-art animal adoption and education facility, Wallis Annenberg PetSpace, in Playa Vista. As the Veterinarian and Animal Care Manager, she oversaw medical procedures, behavioral training, and the adoption process of pets looking for their forever homes. She is now the Senior Manager of Community Partnerships and Welfare Initiatives, where she further expands the reach and impact of Annenberg PetSpace and its many endeavors to further the human-animal bond. Dr. Rawlinson pursued a B.S. in biology from the University of Guelph in Ontario and the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, B.C. and completed her doctorate of Veterinary Medicine at Western University of Health Sciences in Pomona, California. She continues to treat a wide variety of emergency and non-emergency cases as a general practitioner, focusing primarily on the care of dogs and cats.

What day-to-day operations have been most impacted at Annenberg PetSpace by COVID-19 and how have you creatively overcome those challenges?

Ultimately every part of our operations are being impacted by COVID-19. We are still providing care for the animals that remain in our space, but the quantity of on-site staff is greatly reduced to limit exposure while continuing top-quality care. The majority of our adoptable pets are currently being fostered in homes. Other factors, like daily programming and special events, are not available while the space is closed, so we moved many of these online. We are now able to offer live Paws & Pages story time sessions, live interactive puppet shows, and wellness workshops via Zoom, along with Pet Encounters and live chats on Instagram Live. Additionally, we are now offering adoptions through appointment-only. This new process will require an introductory phone conversation, then an in-person or virtual meet-and-greet, all while practicing safe social distancing.

Which revenue stream will suffer the most as a result of the COVID crisis?

All businesses and nonprofits are being affected by the COVID-19 crisis, sadly. We're in the fortunate position where we are supported by the Wallis Annenberg Legacy Foundation, which allows us to continue programming online and adoptions by appointment. Many of our event bookings will be affected though. We will be mindful of our overall budget this year and are working to adjust programs and events to offer safe experiences to all our guests.

Has this new way of life/doing business resulted in any unexpected wins for Annenberg PetSpace?

We're extremely happy to see how quickly our network reached out to offer fostering for many of our adoptable animals. We were previously developing a fostering program, but the pandemic quickly sped up the need for that process. We're thrilled to see how the people of Los Angeles are opening up their hearts and homes and allowing us to continue supporting pets in need. It will be something that we continue doing, moving forward.

Additionally, we are excited to discover how well our community is adjusting to joining us for online sessions. We're connecting with plenty of influential thought-leaders in the animal welfare world. It's allowing us to connect with more people that aren't local to the LA area. The technology also allows us to continue to offer adoptions and find homes for pets in need.

Do you expect that any changes you've made to your way of doing business due to COVID-19 will remain in your company's normal practices moving forward?

We will be further developing a foster program to better activate the large community of animal lovers and continue helping pets find forever homes.

What will be the lasting impact of COVID-19 on Annenberg PetSpace — your most optimistic answer and most pessimistic?

We've seen an increased interest in pet adoption– photos of cleared shelters, increased quantity of fostering, and so many people adopting. Though this time period is challenging, people are discovering that pet companionship is so valuable and significant. The human-animal bond is being highlighted by the pandemic. So many people are leaning on their pets for support and interactions and our animals are getting extra love in return.

As a larger picture scenario- we are facing economic struggle. As we saw in the 2008 recession, there was an increase in animal surrenders, as people don't have the resources to keep a pet. It will be a challenge to manage the large number of animals entering the shelters and we will rely on the community to keep pets in homes and find new homes through adopting and fostering.

What effect do you think COVID-19 will have on opportunities for near term college graduates, has it changed your views of this generation? What advice do you have for young people?

My heart goes out to all these near-term graduates. This is an unprecedented crisis and a defining moment of our lifetime. As we've seen across the country, young people are incredibly resilient and are rising to these current challenges. In this time of adversity, I hope to see graduates focus their energy and develop new innovations moving forward, specifically those that support healthy communities of people and pets. My advice is to remain hopeful and continue pursuing your goals.

As a global community, our lives are all intertwined and that's clear to see as we are all seeing the effects of COVID-19. Going into adulthood, this is an opportunity to implement this sense of unity into everything we do. One person's actions can affect hundreds of people. If you take this lesson and apply it positively, the actions you take can have a ripple effect across the community and throughout the world. It can lead to incredible developments.

What has COVID-19 made you appreciate?

I appreciate everything that is keeping Annenberg PetSpace moving forward- our team, the animal welfare community, and the opportunity to interact with others, albeit primarily online for now.

Once the Safer at Home order is lifted and we get our city back, what's the first thing you're going to do?

Coordinating playdates for my kids (they miss their friends) and I very much look forward to volunteering again at wellness clinics.

How do you navigate the question of when and how to re-open your office?

We are being as transparent as possible. We are letting our staff and community know that safety is the most important thing to consider. We're following guidelines from local and government leadership. We have regular task force meetings on how to open up in the safest ways possible. We are looking forward to potentially welcoming guests back to the space in the coming weeks.

How does your team balance personal life with professional life while working from home?

It's a challenge for everyone as we continue to adjust. We regularly try to create fun opportunities for our team to talk and open up during this time. We are having team staff meetings online and games/coffee talk sessions to share how everyone is balancing during this time.

How has the COVID-19 situation impacted pet adoptions in Los Angeles?

Ours were on pause for some time, but are now available online via appointment. The city and county animal care centers are offering adoptions on an appointment-only basis at this time. There is an increased interest in adopting and fostering, as so many are working from home, which is great. We are excited to help our adoptable pets find homes as soon as possible.

What kind of emotional support do animals give us during times of crisis like this?

Animals are always a great source of comfort, especially in uncertain times. This crisis offers an opportunity to spend more time together and further develop a bond. It's given people a routine and a sense of familiarity and normalcy when that may not exist as readily in other forms right now.

Our pets are all getting the royal treatment as we spend so much time with them. When it comes time to get back to work, will our dogs and cats go through separation anxiety, or will they have short memory?

It's possible for them to develop separation anxiety if they've become accustomed to constant attachment. Now is an ideal time to work on training and enrichment with our pets. Pets thrive with a routine. If you can maintain a routine by leaving a pet at home and going for a walk outside for a bit, it will help them understand that you won't always be at home, but will return at the end of the day, just as before.