Pandemic sparks interest in pet adoption, but risks loom

Pass by a dog park in Brooklyn and chances are you’ll meet a few new pet owners.

Jake Gofman and his fiancée adopted their puppy, Mishka, from Safe and Sound Satos in October. “She was like a second-wave pandemic puppy,” he said.

Pet owners say their furry friends bring structure to the amorphous days of coronavirus-related lockdowns and companionship when socializing is discouraged. And more time at home means more time to spend with a brand new puppy.

“It’s just a really good time to raise a puppy and teach him all the good habits, but also to make him very dependent on you too,” joked Gofman, who usually works from home but also told his fiancée. went remote amid the pandemic.

Gofman isn’t the only one to adopt.

Adoption rates surged in 2020 during the coronavirus pandemic. According to PetPoint, which collects data on animals in shelters, the rate at which pets were rescued from shelters increased 12% year-over-year in 2020 after several years of stability or even decline. . There is however a catch. As shelters struggled to adapt to harsh operating conditions amid the pandemic, the admission of dogs and cats dropped dramatically. In recent years, declining admissions have translated into declining adoption rates, but not in 2020. So while the total number of animals adopted from shelters may have declined, the percentage of animals rescued skyrocketed.

Best Friends Animal Society, a nonprofit animal welfare organization that operates no-kill shelters across the country, has seen the effects of that firsthand.

“We’ve seen a dramatic increase in the number of fosters and adoptions across all of our programs. Here in New York, we’ve seen thousands of adoption inquiries completed with people requesting animals,” said said Best Friends spokeswoman Hannah Stember.

A single foster family orientation event, held online, had more than 1,000 attendees, according to Carolyn Fitzgerald, senior rescue program manager at Best Friends.

“We had full support from our foster care system – from new foster homes to old foster homes – so much so that it was overwhelming that we had more foster homes than we had. pets in our program,” she said.

Fitzgerald, who bred five dogs and adopted two amid the pandemic, explained why she thinks it’s such a popular trend.

“Animals don’t care about COVID. They don’t care if you have a job, if you’ve worked 12 hours and you’re on your 20th Zoom call. They’re just like, ‘we love you ‘”, did she say. “The sheer joy of having them in your life is what really inspires people.”

The sudden surge of interest in promotion and adoption was good news for Best Friends, which moved all of its resident pets out of shelters and into foster care when the pandemic hit. The nonprofit has also begun migrating many of its operations online, hosting virtual meet-and-greets with potential adopters, and even hosting drive-through kitten adoption events.

But for all the pets that have found new homes amid the coronavirus pandemic, millions more could be left homeless as the pandemic rages on.

Housing issues are the second most common reason people in the United States abandon their pets to shelters, and the financial devastation of the coronavirus pandemic has put 30 to 40 million people in 17 million households at risk. risk of losing their home. If even a fraction of those households own pets — and Best Friends reports that about two-thirds of U.S. households do — that’s millions of animals that could be heading to shelters. An eviction doesn’t automatically mean a family may have to give up their pets, but Best Friends Animal Society CEO Julie Castle said that in most cases, homeless shelters don’t do not allow pets and that pet policies may vary by owner or with respect to the public. lodging.

“If someone is evicted from an apartment where they have a pet, and their only option might be an apartment where pets are not allowed, there is a member of their family who is suddenly in danger,” Castle said. “So what can we do to help curb this?”

Best Friends tackles this problem in several ways. The first is to educate people about available resources that could help them keep their pets, such as pet pantries and temporary foster services. The association offers its support to municipal shelters to increase the chances of a positive result for animals abandoned there. They have also begun to expand their own foster networks to ensure pets end up in foster homes, rather than shelters. For Best Friends, moving away from the concept of shelters as homes for pets has been a long-term goal, a Castle said the pandemic has actually helped accelerate.

“It’s a big transformational shift for us to rethink animal shelters not as a brick and mortar facility, but as the community and the community truly stepping forward to help with homeless pets,” she said.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued a federal eviction moratorium in September and extended it through March 31, 2021, following an executive order from President Joe Biden. The stimulus bill being considered by House Democrats also aims to extend the eviction halt and includes billions of dollars in renter relief, but experts fear that won’t be enough, according to Insider. If and when it expires, millions of families – and their pets – could be at risk of becoming homeless.

About Patrick K. Moon

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