Pet adoption during coronavirus: shelters and rescue groups are adapting

Many animal shelters across the country have seen a surge in adoptions in recent weeks as people scramble to add new companions to help them through COVID-19 stay-at-home orders.

But there are still plenty of cats and dogs available for adoption in the Triangle, and plenty of obstacles facing animal groups during these uncertain times.

Shelters that have so far pursued adoptions have had to get creative about this — some hosting video adoption events and others offering appointment-only adoptions. But there’s still the lingering problem of fundraising for those not supported by county funds — and that situation is worse than ever.

The Wake County SPCA closed to the public on March 14 and did not begin adoptions by appointment until the following day. Since then until the various stay-at-home orders issued this week and Governor Roy Cooper’s stay-at-home order on Friday statewide, the nonprofit group has had 118 pet adoptions, a mix of cats and dogs.

That sounds like a lot, but it’s fewer adoptions than the group typically would during this time, CEO and Chairman Kim Janzen said.

Janzen said his staff have been focused this month on “getting as many animals out as possible, either into happy new homes or into foster families.” They currently have 229 animals in their care, including 147 in foster care.

And now, Wake County SPCA adoptions have completely ceased.

“Since restrictions were announced yesterday for Wake County, we will be suspending appointment-based adoptions and moving as many animals as possible into foster homes,” Janzen told The News & Observer on Friday.

“The way I looked at it, we recognize that we have a responsibility to encourage people to stay home,” she said.

Some adoptions are still taking place, for now

All situations are fluid right now, to say the least, but some local county shelters are still offering adoptions, even though the adoption centers are essentially closed.

But that’s tricky, says Tenille Fox, communications specialist at Orange County Animal Services, where adoptions can still take place by appointment only.

“We are constantly working on ways to ensure there is no person-to-person contact, consistent with social distancing measures recommended by public health officials,” Fox wrote in an email to The News & Observer. The safety of staff members and the safety of the public is a top priority, Fox said.

The Orange County shelter has asked people to delay returning animals to the shelter if possible, as they work to get animals moving through the shelter to avoid ending up with too many people.

“So far we’ve been doing well,” Fox said. “But, every day seems to produce a new hurdle and an opportunity for more consideration for some aspect of our adoption process.”

For starters, the center is posting more videos on social media, to show the personality of the pets. And they are working on methods to complete the adoption process with as little personal contact as possible.

But not knowing how long this is all going to last is one of the biggest hurdles everyone is facing right now.

“There’s an old saying that it’s a marathon, not a sprint,” added Orange County Animal Services director Bob Moratto. “We still don’t know if it’s a marathon or a long distance race. But it’s definitely not a sprint, although we’re doing a lot right now.

The Wake County Animal Center is also trying to keep adoptions going. A notice on their website on March 27 states that the adoption center is open from noon to 6 p.m. daily and “receives clients by appointment only.”

The situation is also uncertain in Durham, where Independent Animal Rescue is trying to continue adoptions by promoting the animals through social media videos, but regular fundraising events have come to a complete halt.

The nonprofit rescue group is run entirely by volunteers, and this week they launched a fundraising effort on Facebook that they hope will make up for lost funding due to the cancellation of public events. .

“We probably won’t be able to host fundraising events for some time,” the post read. “At the same time, homeless dogs and cats in our community need our services now more than ever.”

The Facebook fundraising page has a goal of $25,000, with $2,290 raised as of March 27.

Likewise, SAFE Haven for Cats in Raleigh closed its adoption center “for the foreseeable future” (although they said they would reevaluate weekly) and canceled their biggest annual fundraiser, the Tuxedo Cat Ball. . Second Chance Pet Adoptions in Raleigh has also closed, but encourages interested adopters to complete online applications and make appointments to meet available pets.

And small foster-based rescue groups, such as Alley Cats & Angels, which depend on pet stores such as PetSmart to run weekend adoption events, are also adapting. Alley Cats & Angels lets FaceTime chats with potential adopters and they can place “expectations” on chats, but adoptions are on hold at this time.

There are still a few bright spots

Despite all the inconvenience for relief groups associated with the coronavirus shutdowns — the Wake SPCA alone says it has lost at least $350,000 due to canceled fundraising events — Janzen points to positives.

There was an outpouring of support from the public wanting to help (donations are the best way, Janzen said); staff now have time for professional development and online training (Wake SPCA has 50 full-time and 1 part-time paid staff, but volunteer activities are closed); and so far the organization’s transfer partners have not seen a huge increase in need.

“We only take them in in an emergency,” Janzen said. “It’s on a case-by-case basis.”

And on Friday, Janzen said staff were gathering personal protective equipment used at the center and donating it to area hospitals.

The group also increased the pet food it delivers to homebound seniors through its AniMeals program this month by removing a two-month supply instead of a one-month supply.

Janzen said she and her employees have been reminded during this crisis that their job is not just to help animals.

“One of the things we’ve realized is that people generally think of us as an animal organization, but the truth is that the way we can help animals is to help people,” Janzen said.

To this end, Janzen encourages pet owners to have an emergency plan in place in case they become ill and their pets need temporary care. “What this will do is reduce the number of animals going to shelters in the area,” she said.

And of course, stay home.

“Follow stay-at-home orders,” Janzen said. “The best thing animals can do is take care of people in the community.”

Follow more of our reports on the coronavirus in North Carolina

See all stories

Raleigh News & Observer related stories

Brooke Cain is from North Carolina and has worked at The News & Observer for over 25 years. She is the editor of service journalism and writes about television and local media for The N&O’s Happiness is a Warm TV blog.

About Patrick K. Moon

Check Also

Pet Adoption Event at Rochester Hills + Troy’s New Beaumont Hospital

Hello everyone. It’s me, Dylan Siwicki, your host of The Daily. Let’s start this weekend …