AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin Animal Center is noting the impact the latest omicron surge is having on staffing levels, with 20% of employees currently out due to COVID-19. That vacancy comes on top of 28 staff openings — including six of the center’s 19 Animal Protection officers.

Prior to the pandemic, AAC requested community members assist in retrieving and reuniting lost pets with their respective owners. As part of that, Animal Protection officers prioritize service requests, with high priority calls including sick or injured animals, aggressive dogs or possible rabies exposures.

“We routinely ask the community to help us by trying to reunite found pets without bringing them into the shelter, even prior to these staffing shortages. This is the best-case scenario for the pet and saves space at the shelter for animals that truly need us,” Kelsey Cler, AAC’s marketing and communication program manager, said in an email. “Most loose pets are found very close to home; keeping them in their community leads to a better chance of finding their families. We have several resources available to help people who find pets, including a reunification guide, text program, and lost and found reports.”

AAC outlines the following tips for people who find lost animals in their neighborhood: