Pet adoption during coronavirus: shelters and rescue groups are adapting

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

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

Shelters that have so far continued 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 backed by county funds – and it’s worse than ever.

The Wake County SPCA closed to the public on March 14 and did not begin appointment adoptions until the next day. From that point until the various stay-at-home orders issued this week and Governor Roy Cooper’s state-wide stay-at-home order on Friday, the nonprofit group had 118 pet adoptions, a mix of cats and dogs.

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

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

And now, adoptions through the Wake County SPCA have completely stopped.

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

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

Some adoptions are still in progress, for now

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

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

“We are constantly working on ways to ensure that there is no person-to-person contact, in accordance 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 keep animals moving around the shelter to avoid ending up with too many.

“So far we’ve been doing well,” Fox said. “But, each 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 off pets’ personalities. And they’re working on methods to complete the adoption process with as little person-to-person contact as possible.

But not knowing how long this will all last is one of the biggest hurdles everyone faces 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 run. But it’s definitely not a sprint, although we’re doing a lot of it right now.

The Wake County Animal Center also tries to maintain adoptions. A notice on their website on March 27 says 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 pursue adoptions by promoting the animals through videos on social media, but regular fundraising events have been completely halted.

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

“We probably won’t be able to host fundraising events for a while,” the post read. “At the same time, the homeless dogs and cats in our community need our services 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 has closed its adoption center “for the foreseeable future” (although they said they would reassess every week) and canceled their biggest annual fundraiser, the Tuxedo Cat. Ball. Second Chance Pet Adoptions in Raleigh have also closed, but are encouraging interested adopters to complete online applications and make an appointment to meet with available animals.

And small homestay rescue groups, such as Alley Cats & Angels, which depend on pet stores like PetSmart to host adoption events on weekends, are also adapting. Alley Cats & Angels leaves FaceTime cats with potential adopters and they may place “holds” on the cats, but adoptions are on hold at this time.

There are still bright spots

Despite all the drawbacks to rescue groups associated with the coronavirus shutdowns – the Wake SPCA alone claims to have lost at least $ 350,000 due to canceled fundraising events – Janzen points to the bright spots.

There has been a surge of support from the public eager to help (the best way is to donate, Janzen said); staff now have time for professional development and online training (Wake SPCA has 50 paid full-time and 1 part-time staff, but volunteer operations are closed); and so far, the organization’s transfer partners have not seen a huge increase in needs.

“We only welcome them in emergencies,” Janzen said. “It’s on a case-by-case basis.

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

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

Janzen said she and her employees remembered during this crisis that their job isn’t 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, the way we can help animals is to help people,” Janzen said.

To this end, Janzen encourages pet owners to put in place an emergency plan in case they get sick and their pets need temporary care. “What this will do is decrease the number of animals entering shelters in the area,” she said.

And of course, stay home.

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

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

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