June 22, 2020
Quarantine has been a taxing time for everyone. Mentally, physically and emotionally, people are still recovering from the devastating effects that the coronavirus and its consequential lockdown has inflicted on the world. However, considering this is such a challenging time, it is interesting to see something so positive come from it. With more time than ever on our hands, people have been in search of things to keep them occupied and keep them company. As a result, animal shelters have reported new highs of fostering and adoption rates for their animals. This is a step in the right direction to finding loving homes for every animal living in a shelter.
Americans, along with the rest of the world, were forced into quarantine and away from socialization. This brought up feelings of loneliness and anxiety for many. For those who live alone or away from family, the inability to see others on a regular basis can take a mental toll, and animals surrendered to shelters also experience loneliness. With shelters unable to operate as normal, animals can face additional neglect during lockdown. As with many other workplaces, shelters were forced to pause operations indefinitely and limit the number of volunteers and workers providing aid. This gave shelters little time to prepare for how they could continue to care for their animals. However, people looking to adopt a pet have found the perfect time to do so, resulting in shelters across the nation reporting high amounts of animals finding homes or entering foster care with loving families.
In April, NBC News reported that the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals had a 70% increase of animals in New York and Los Angeles entering foster care compared to last year. In early May, ASPCA announced their plans to help 200,000 animals who have been affected by coronavirus. So far, their efforts have had tremendous results: over 2,000 dogs and cats obtained veterinary care; 40,000 dogs, cats and horses have gotten food from distribution sources; $2 million has been given to animal welfare groups; 3,000 animals received care from the organization’s NYC COVID-19 Pet Hotline; and the Emergency Boarding Facility in New York has capacity to temporarily board 40 dogs and cats whose owners have been affected by COVID-19. Efforts made by large organizations such as the ASPCA have helped both animals and their owners who have been impacted.
In March, as states began announcing plans to go into lockdown, the Bissell Pet Foundation created the Empty the Shelters relief project in which they sponsored shelters to have reduced adoption fees of $25. Of the 83 shelters across the nation that participated, 33 were from Michigan. Even a shelter from Lansing, the Capital Area Humane Society, took part. Their mission was to help struggling shelters find great homes for their animals, as well as help people find a furry companion to help them through quarantine. The project ran from March 19 to April 8, and in that time, 3,325 adoptions were made and 247 new foster families were found. Relief plans such as this one show that it is possible to work together, even while social distancing, to find safe homes for animals.
Shelters are also working to maintain regular services while simultaneously cooperating with social distancing and other precautionary measures that are encouraged. The Michigan Humane Society has established virtual adoption floors in which they show the animals via Facebook Live and set up online meeting appointments for those interested in adopting them. These virtual meetings are held every Monday, Wednesday and Friday between noon-1 p.m.
In addition to making efforts to maintain regular pet adoptions, the Michigan Humane Society is also making adjustments to events so that shelters can still raise money, albeit the events would be online rather than in-person. Their current fundraiser, the Virtual Mutt March, is aimed toward raising money for shelters while maintaining social distancing. On July 26, participants will walk in their neighborhoods to raise awareness and funds for animals in need. This virtual walk allows anyone to participate safely. The official website will have a kickoff video on the day of the fundraiser. It is $25 to participate, and a $60 donation includes a t-shirt commemorating the event. Donations will be accepted until August 16, and they ask that physical donations are mailed in no later than August 21. The Michigan Humane Society encourages people to donate what they can, in order for them to “continue providing critical veterinary care, rescuing injured and sick animals, and supporting families in need with pet food and supplies.” Fundraisers such as this one show that despite the inability to bring large groups together, there are still ways to make a difference and (virtually) come together for a good cause.
Adopting or fostering animals in need is a noble action that can be extremely rewarding for both owner and pet. Every animal deserves a loving home and a caring family to live with. However, taking care of a pet is time consuming and can be expensive. Many animals could unfortunately be surrendered to animal shelters once again as people are beginning to return to work and school. Only adopt a pet if you are willing to commit your time, energy and money to it and care for it long-term. Animals will love you unconditionally, make sure to return the favor to them.
Claire Bahorski (@clairebahorski) is a junior at Michigan State University studying Human Capital and Society and Humanities Pre-Law, with concentrations in Public and Professional Writing and History. In her free time, she loves spending time with her friends and family and watching movies. She hopes to always continue writing, along with her aspirations of becoming an attorney.