Humane societies across the country are urging people to give pets a new home during the COVID-19 outbreak. Animal shelters everywhere are being deeply affected, cutting hours, discontinuing some services, and coping with taking in new animals while trying to adopt others out.
The good news is that for the most part, shelters are considered essential services. They intend to keep saving animals for as long as they’re able.
Adoption & Foster Rates Booming
There’s been an incredible boom of pet adoptions and fostering during the COVID-19 pandemic. People sheltering in place, working from home, and practicing social distancing are finding that pets are a great way to soothe their anxiety and feelings of isolation.
Rescue organizations and shelters say the amount of interest they’re getting from people who want to help is at an unprecedented level. In addition to puppies and full-grown dogs, they’re also taking in cats, kittens, and rabbits, often as comfort animals for their children.
How Dogs Help People During the Pandemic
Why the sudden surge in adoptions? A new addition to the household, especially the four-legged variety, allows people to look outside themselves and focus on something other than the pandemic. For them, a new pet represents hope. And for people who live alone and families with small children, it’s symbolic of “life goes on” and “this, too, shall pass.”
Of course, people who’ve been pet parents for years know that puppies and dogs bring companionship and unconditional love to their lives. Pets are also great for keeping us in a routine, which brings a sense of stability in uncertain times.
On another note, in the U.K., a charity called Medical Detection Dogs is researching whether dogs, with their keen sense of smell, can be enlisted in the fight against COVID-19. If so, these dogs would be trained in the same way others have been to detect diseases such as cancer.
Shelters Facing Hard Choices
Although the Humane Society has called on states to declare them essential, some shelters are being forced to close because of state or local lockdown and quarantine orders. Others are limiting public access, and some are making desperate pleas for people to foster dogs, cats, and other animals whose parents have fallen sick with the virus.
Other ways shelters and agencies are being affected include:
- Loss of financial means due to cancelled fundraising events.
- A drop in monthly donations, making it difficult to provide services like rescues.
- Severe cutbacks in the number of new animals taken in so staff, also reduced in number, can tend to the animals already sheltered.
Is There Still Time to Adopt?
Though some pet adoption agencies report long waiting lists, there is still time to adopt. To help out, some shelters are temporarily waiving adoption fees so pets can find homes as quickly as possible. They’re also making it easy to view available animals online which lets you choose a pet while still practicing social distancing.
Along with bringing joy into you and your new pet’s lives, adopting now also helps shelter and animal rescue operations focus on the animals they have during a difficult time. So even if you’re only able to foster right now, it can make a huge difference. And who knows, you might find yourself so attached to your new furry friend that you, too, embrace the idea that “a house is not a home without a dog.”