As the ripple effects of the Coronavirus crisis continue to be felt throughout Hollywood, Crown Media, parent company to Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, announced on March 14 that its original movies and daily chat show Home & Family (now in repeats) would join much of Hollywood by temporarily suspending production. According to the issued statement, March 30 was likely the earliest date the certain productions might resume, though no decisions have been made. While the entire Home & Family team agrees that the move was a wise one, the show’s resident pet adoption expert Larissa Wohl wants to make clear that everyone involved in the network’s Adoption Ever After initiative is still working hard to save lives and place animals in forever homes around the country. “Temporarily losing the daily platform to be able to highlight at least 10 needy animals a week isn’t ideal,” she told MediaVillage in an exclusive interview. “So many of the animals we highlight end up adopted, [and we] make viewers aware of rescue organizations near them that they may not have known about. Our health is the priority. But we’ll be continuing our efforts throughout this difficult time.”
With on-air rescue efforts temporarily sidelined, Wohl (pictured at top and below with friends) has taken to social media to continue doing what she loves and remind people that fostering is always an option. “From home, I’ve been using my social media to remind everybody this is probably the best time to foster if you can,” she explained. “Many rescues are canceling their adoption events because of social distancing, so they are getting it from all angles and it’s heartbreaking. Even offering supplies to a shelter helps. I’ve been doing everything I can as I feel we’ve come too far to stop and unwind all the good we’ve done. I fear the animals could become the forgotten ones amidst all of this.
“I visited one of my local shelters this week,” Wohl continued. “Thankfully there weren’t a lot of small dogs to be fostered. Having three small dogs makes it hard for me to take in a larger dog, but rescues need the space. I’d really like people to be aware and consider what they could possibly do. If you’re working at home, or can’t work, foster! Explain what your intention and commitment is. It also helps the rescue get an idea of what the animal is like in a safe environment and that helps to place them. It’s what makes fostering great.”
Hallmark’s decision to err on the side of caution in postponing Home & Family’s production is one she believes was necessary. "I support the decision as it’s for everyone’s safety,” she shared. “We’re all very close to each other, love each other, and we do work in close quarters. That extends to our crew of approximately 100 people. Working so closely is what makes the show special, but everybody was on heightened alert. As nearby productions began closing, it became very apparent it was the safest thing for us to do. We hate not being there, but we understand for the bigger picture that it is absolutely necessary.”
Another important factor Wohl wanted to mention in these uncertain times is having a support system in place when it comes to caring for pets. “One of the sad fallouts is as people are getting sick, or fear it, they’re surrendering animals,” she said. “For older people without a support system, it’s overwhelming. So if you know anybody in that situation and are available to help, reach out! Take away some of the burden by offering to go to the supermarket for them. Even low maintenance pets still need to go out, so possibly offer to take their dogs for a walk. Check on them. It would provide relief and could make the difference between someone being scared and relinquishing a pet and keeping it. My understanding, and as far as the experts have noted, is that animals can’t spread the virus to humans.
“I understand that people are self-isolating, but your dog shouldn’t be disposable,” she added. “I know circumstances can be dire. In Los Angeles, shelters are requesting if you find a stray, please hold onto it and possibly search for owners locally. Space is really important right now, and it could just be that someone is afraid to go outside to find their animal. Reach out on Facebook, Next Door, or any of these other community-based apps. If a pet’s owner is sick, possibly offer your home. It’s going to give peace of mind, and at the least, possibly save that animal.”
On a personal note, Wohl offered this: “I can tell you firsthand, being unable to work, I’m here with my three dogs and if they weren’t with me, I don’t know what I would do. They need my attention, make me laugh, want to snuggle and provide positive energy. I can’t go to the gym and exercise, but I can take them for walks and smile and wave at people we see. Having them makes life better.”
Home & Family is telecast daily at 10 a.m. on Hallmark Channel.
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