Pet adoption boom in the East End

If you love animals, you know the joy and companionship that a pet can bring. Step into COVID-19, and it’s no wonder the demand for adoptions and foster families has exploded.

“We do about 200 dog adoptions per year. Last year we made almost 400, so in 2020 we doubled our number of adoptions, ”said Michelle Montak, founder and director of Gimme Shelter Animal Rescue, a non-profit dog rescue foundation. lucrative company based in Sagaponack. “During COVID, I think people realized the value and compassion of having the love of an animal. It was a big draw in 2020, people were looking for something to comfort them and dogs offer love unconditional.

According to Montak, Gimme Shelter has saved 3,000 dogs in the past 10 years. It has no physical facility or shelter. Most of the rescues come from the South, and the mission is to save animals destined for euthanasia in facilities with high mortality, to treat them medically and then transport them to their reception network in the East End, before d ‘be adopted.

Gimme Shelter Founder and Director Michelle Montak with her dogs Courtesy of Michelle Montak

One of those rescue dogs in 2020 has found his forever home with actress and Montauk resident Julianne Moore, and her husband Bart Freundlich.

“We were so ready to adopt another dog and really wanted a rescue (our lab mix Cherry died two years ago),” says Moore. “Gimme Shelter is very thorough in their screening process and careful when it comes to placing their dogs. When we heard that a lab puppy named Cherry was being placed in foster care about 15 minutes from our house (in Montauk), sure enough, we got the feeling that was a sign! When we went to meet her, it was about an hour after Biden was declared the winner of the election. It was a very happy day when we met our beautiful new puppy and renamed her Hope. “

East End Animal Shelters have worked hard this year to meet (continuing) demand, while also adjusting and adapting to tough new regulations and the realities of operating as an essential service during a pandemic.

“For every new animal offered for adoption (over the past year) we’ve been inundated with applications,” says Jamie Berger, director of marketing and communications at the Animal Rescue Fund of the Hamptons (ARF). “There was a lot more demand for animals than we had. So we haven’t seen an increase in adoptions because of the supply. Our relief transport was a problem, with state border crossing and quarantine. But the silver lining is that, because our inventory was low, around 10 of our long-time residents were adopted or placed, many of whom were neglected for longer than we had hoped.

Cyrena Abdelnour from ARF with Jada
Cyrena Abdelnour from ARF with Jada Courtesy of ARF

At the Bideawee site in Westhampton, home to a shelter, animal hospital and pet memorial park, “the demand for adoptable animals has increased exponentially during the pandemic,” said Leslie Granger, president / CEO of CAWA and Bideawee. “The demand for adoption is still as high, I haven’t seen it drop yet. “

According to Granger, since March of last year, Bideawee has made 317 adoptions in Westhampton, and between 1,600 and 1,700 at the three sites in Manhattan, Wantagh and Westhampton.

“Our ability to meet demand has been hampered by security protocols aimed at ensuring the safety of all staff, volunteers and adopters, as well as by inconsistent transportation, fewer abandoned animals, adoptions on appointments all led to fewer adoptions, ”Granger adds. “But we are now seeing it starting to increase and we expect it to continue to return to pre-pandemic levels, hopefully by the fall.”

What are the odds now of adopting a dog or cat from a shelter or rescue in the East? Better than last year at this time.

“People are always trying to adopt which is great, we can’t keep up with the demand,” Berger says. “For the moment, our inventory is in the lower part, 50 to 75 animals in the building, all of which are not yet available for adoption. “

Check out our Hamptons Need-to-Know: Guide to Adopting and Welcoming Pets

But spring is here, and with it, the imminent explosion of kittens.

“When it comes to wildlife in the East End, the ARF Operation Cat program is up and running,” Berger said. “We were shut down a bit during the height of the pandemic, but we are now back with limited capacity…. We need community foster volunteers to help spot feral kittens in the colonies, and if they are spayed and neutered early, this is how they are adopted.

“Foster has been our saving grace,” Granger says. “More than 700 people applied to become host families in Bideawee during the first week of the pandemic. “

Gimme Shelter has seen “about double the number of foster families this year,” Montak adds.

At Hampton Bays at Southampton Animal Shelter Foundation (SASF), which takes care of animals in need including dogs, cats, rabbits, birds, guinea pigs and “lots of roosters and chickens that go astray “There are about 48 dogs for adoption – everything from 9-month-old black lab puppies to senior dogs, notes Kate McEntee, director of pet adoptions.

“Cats count is” in the 80s, it goes up to around 100 during kitten season because we’re about to be slammed with kittens. “

Don Lemon and Tim Malone with their SASF dogs
Don Lemon and Tim Malone with their SASF dogs Courtesy of Tim Malone

CNN presenter Don Lemon and fiance Tim Malone have adopted their three SASF rescue dogs.

“We love them so much,” Lemon says. “These dogs are our lives,” Malone adds, “and without them (SASF) we wouldn’t have them.”

McEntee says Lemon and Malone are “great adopters,” but she worries about others and “what happens when everyone returns to work.”

This is a concern shared by many local shelters.

“People are at home now with some free time, but I hope that if people start to return to work the animals won’t suffer from separation anxiety,” says Gabby Stroup, director of the North Fork Animal Welfare League (NFAWL) which helps “occasional dogs, cats and pigs” and has an animal control contract with the town of Southold. “I hope they are invested in these dogs and will not want to return them.”

Is there any evidence for the trend that after summer people give up their pets?

“I didn’t see that,” says Jamie Berger of the ARF, who is quick to point out that “the grassroots efforts of the ARF began in 1974 because when Labor Day was held, the animals were left behind. ” Today, “Berger’s biggest concern is that as things get back to normal, will we see some of these animals come back because people might not have time for them.”

Adoptable Pets (at time of posting) at ARF, Bideawee, GSAR, NFAWL, SASF
Adoptable Pets (at time of publication) at ARF, Bideawee, GSAR, NFAWL and SASF

“Sometimes a game is returned, but not often,” said Stroup. “I would say at the end of April last year at NFAWL we were probably empty and there were no more dogs left. Today, Stroup says they have 59 cats and around 38 dogs. “Many of them are in foster care and few at the shelter at the moment,” she notes.

So what makes the best match between the adopter or foster home and the animal? “It depends on what you’re looking for in a pet,” says Stroup. “Do you want a dog to get in the car or go jogging with you?” Then you need a more energetic dog. Snuggle up on the sofa? Obviously a gentler dog.

“Everyone wants the puppy and the kitten, but once you start talking about it with the potential adopter, is there enough time? What is their schedule? Said Berger.

“Consider your lifestyle,” Granger adds. “People will say, ‘I have a small apartment, I want a little dog’, but this little dog may have more energy than you are willing to put up with … We are working really hard to do the right thing. match.”

In a time of uncertainty, isolation and loneliness, you could say that shelters and relief workers have literally come to the rescue.

“The love of an animal brings a lot to our lives,” says Montak. “People have discovered how great a relationship can be with a dog. They are incredible and magical creatures.


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