Coronavirus Boosts Increase in Pet Adoption and Adoption

Emily Bates needed some kind of balm for her growing sense of dread.

His solution: adopt a terrier mix named Frankie.

Heidi Torres needed a coronavirus distraction for her three children – bored, worried and home from school.

His answer: welcome Benny, a mix of spaniels who had just been run over by a car.

Liz Bridges, far from her home in Pasadena, just needed a boyfriend.

Liz Bridges and her new puppy, Ruby, in Sri Lanka, where the Pasadena native is awaiting a coronavirus lockdown.

(Liz Bridges)

So she brought home a stray 4-week-old puppy who was being kept alive – barely – by monks on the streets of Talpe, a small seaside town in southern Sri Lanka.

In Los Angeles and around the world, in turbulent and uncertain times, it sometimes seems like every cat and pooch is now a therapy pet.

“Dogs are such healers,” said Namiko Ishii-Danganan, who just raised a blue-nosed pit bull named Sky. “She’s a big distraction…biggest love bug ever.”

Shelter and rescue organizations nationwide are reporting unprecedented interest in promotion and adoption as people sheltering in place turn to kittens and puppies, dogs and cats, and here and there a rabbit, for comfort during the coronavirus crisis.

Amid the lockdown, a restless, hard-headed nation has found what it really needs right now is a hug and a sip.

ChatCafé

CatCafe Lounge founder Kristi Labrenz Galvan hangs out with some of her furry friends at the Westside establishment.

(Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times)

“We’re being inundated with offers to foster kittens and also seeing a surge in interest in adoption,” said Ben Lehrer, president of Kitten Rescue, which places kittens and strays across Los Angeles. since 25 years.

Kristi Labrenz Galvan, who runs the CatCafe Lounge, a shop full of available cats and cafes (currently open only for adoption services) in West Los Angeles, reports a similar increase. “We had so many adoptions…. It was so awesome.

Jack Hagerman, vice president of the Pasadena Humane Society, reports a “massive increase” in interest, adding that less than a week after his group sent out its first call for adoptive volunteers on March 12, ” we had 1,451 people come forward wanting to take a pet into a shelter,” with the 124 available pets currently placed. “Wow. Just wow.”

Thinking of visiting one of the sites operated by Los Angeles Animal Services, one of the nation’s largest municipal shelter systems? “If people want a small dog, we only have a few at the moment,” said Agnes Sibal-von Debschitz, a representative for the agency.

A new addition to a household can ease anxiety, allowing people to focus on something other than the pandemic. Nikki Weingarten, a family and marriage therapist at La Cañada Flintridge, says a new pet “represents hope.” They can be especially useful for people who live alone, and when it comes to families with children, the message is, “We’re getting this pet, life goes on, you’ll be fine.”

Placement was already on the rise across the country, and experts say about half of all adopted pets eventually become permanent residents of their foster homes. But the stringency of some pet fostering protocols (as well as adoption procedures) inspired now-familiar complaints from expectant pet parents, who suggested it was easier to qualify for a mortgage than adopting a cat or a dog.

Staff members of shelters and rescue groups insist that bureaucracy has been reduced in recent years. And in recent weeks, with interest skyrocketing, procedures have been further streamlined as organizations scramble to place pets in homes, knowing they will soon have to make do with a staff skeletal. (Animals in need of special care were a priority.) Groups increasingly turned to online requests and confirmations.

“I was shocked at how quickly it happened,” Bates said of her adoption by Little Angels, a grassroots rescue group. “I think it was a bit different because everyone was working from home.”

“We saved but we never hosted,” said Torres, who took Benny away after he was hit by a car and suffered a broken pelvis. “We got the call and within hours we had it.”

At first they had to carry Benny everywhere, but lately he’s been on his own while he heals.

“I kept telling the kids how good an example he was,” said Torres, who lives in La Cañada Flintridge and is the mother of Graysen, 12, Jakob, 16, and Maddie, 19. “I feel like he taught us lessons.

“And he’s so nice.”

Maddie, left, Greyson and Jakob Torres, with their foster pup, Benny.

Siblings Maddie, left, Greyson and Jakob Torres, with their foster pup, Benny.

(Heidi Torres)

Foster and rescue stories come from near and far. Bridges adopted the dog she named Ruby from the streets of Little Talpe, Sri Lanka, where lockdown rules only allowed residents of the seaside town to go shopping every three days. She was locked up in Talpe with her boyfriend waiting to start a hiking business.

“I couldn’t imagine this without her,” Bridges said in an email, adding that Ruby was initially covered in fleas and ticks. “She keeps me mentally and physically occupied through everything, and I couldn’t be happier that she fell into our hands.”

In Chicago, dental student Jenna Kirk took advantage of an extended spring break to bring home Honey, a 5-pound poodle puppy with eyes like a Christmas toy.

“I have all day to spend with her now,” Kirk, 29, said. “I can fit her schedule and she can fit mine.”

Sandra Sempowicz and her dog, Bob Dylan

Sandra Sempowicz and her new pal, Bob Dylan.

(Sandra Sempowicz)

For Sandra Sempowicz, who recently lost her husband of 36 years, having her recently adopted dog, Bob Dylan, to comfort her during quarantine has been a salvation.

“One day we took five walks,” said Sempowicz, who also lives in Chicago.

The growing interest in pets could hardly come at a better time; March is usually the season for kittens and puppies, when the birth rate among strays skyrockets. Pundits say the season is a little behind this year, although they admit their ability to get a count has been hampered by the pandemic.

The later the season starts, the bigger the boom, Hagerman said, which could set the stage for an even more robust — and troubled — season in a year, especially for kittens. Rescue operations such as Kitten Rescue are also worried about the long-term implications of the economic downturn and how it will affect the donations and grants that support them.

Cristin Tamburo Coll at CatCafe, where she works on feline behavior.

Cristin Tamburo Coll at CatCafe, where she works on feline behavior.

(CatCafe Lounge)

With so many organizations involved, the procedure for moving an animal into a home varies, but generally the flow goes like this:

Shelters, often public establishments, take in stray and abandoned animals. In some municipalities, animals may optionally be euthanized, but the City of Los Angeles has a no-slaughter policy, even though that means some animals often have to be put down.

Animals that are not adopted directly from a shelter are sometimes taken by rescue organizations, often small private non-profit organizations, who place them with volunteers or with those who have been approved to adopt.

During these transfers, organizations are now taking steps to limit human-to-human contact and allow for social distancing, using dog and cat crates and conducting exchanges outside of facilities when possible.

The fostering or adoption process is not always smooth. Shelters and rescue groups strive to help future owners understand that pets need more than “just food and a litter box.”

“A lot of people don’t know, they think it’s easy,” said Cristin Tamburo Coll, a feline behavior consultant who works with CatCafe and Stray Cat Alliance. “Just like humans, cats are all very different. They need toys and something to scratch on. Believe it or not, they are bored.

Honey, a little red poodle, was recently adopted in Chicago.

Honey, a little red poodle, was recently adopted in Chicago.

(Jenna Kirk)

Kitty Block, who heads the Humane Society of the United States, urges those considering a pet to find out about a facility’s policy on veterinary care. Many shelters and rescues provide this for free, but details should be confirmed before committing. Many also provide food, treats and even toys and loan boxes to host families, Block said, but this varies and should also be discussed in advance.

And experts want to remind anyone looking at a pet that even if we stay home, if restrictions ease in the future and people return to work and school, animals will continue to live. need attention and care.

For now, new pet parents say they are grateful for the companionship and all the intangibles that a dog or cat brings to their life.

“I just think of this phrase, ‘A house is not a house without a dog,'” says Ishii-Danganan, who found Sky through the Watts Project, a very active South Los Angeles rescue group. “I’m happy to cheer on and save a life.”


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