pet adoption pandemic

If you’ve been thinking about adopting a furry friend (or if your child has been begging for a dog for years), now might be the perfect time to find a pet. With parents and kids spending a lot more time at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, many families’ thoughts turn to adding a four-legged friend to their brood. After all, working from home does allow for ample time to care for a dog, cat or other small critter. We spoke with two shelters to find out what the situation is for pet adoptions and the best way to go about welcoming a new pet into your household.

Can You Still Adopt?

While many typically overcrowded shelters are actually running out of animals to meet the public’s demand, it’s still possible to adopt a pet from St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center in Madison.

“Animals that are available for adoption, both those in foster homes and the few that are still at the shelter, are listed on our website,” says Michelle Thevenin, Chief Operating Officer at St. Hubert’s.

In early March, St. Hubert’s put out a call to send its animals to as many foster homes as possible and had more willing families than they did pets! And while St. Hubert’s is not open to the public for general browsing right now, many foster pet parents are willing to be contacted directly by those looking to adopt.

“All of our adoptable pets are on our website, so I’d encourage someone to start there,” Thevenin says. “We are trying to enhance the information we share on our adoption site, so people have more information about the pet before they make that first visit. For pets in foster homes, people can use videoconferencing to virtually meet the pets and then set up an in-person meeting, practicing social distancing guidelines, of course. We have ample outdoor space at St. Hubert’s so we can host these meetings if a potential adopter and foster don’t want to meet in their home, or a random park or parking lot.”

Jill Van Tuyl, director of shelter operations at SAVE in Skillman, says the demand for pets is exceeding supply at the moment, yet it’s still possible to adopt.

“Our shelter is open by approved application only,” she says. “We’re asking potential adopters to complete an online application—applications will get more attention if a specific animal is indicated. Once approved, we will contact you to schedule an appointment. Interested parties may also call the shelter to ask for an appointment.”

In order to serve New Jersey first, SAVE is not currently doing out-of-state adoptions. “We are working hard with our various transfer partners, both in state and out of state, to bring in as many animals as we can to meet the need,” she says. “We also ask potential adopters to please be patient as we are receiving hundreds of applications at a time and are doing our best to keep up.”

Finding the Right Fit

If you do get lucky enough to find a pet available for adoption, Thevenin has some tips.

“We want families to consider their lifestyles and the pet that would work best from them,” she says. “We generally have a pet for everyone—from quiet, snuggly lap dogs to highly social rabbits.” Thevenin says the shelter also has plenty of “smallies.”

  “One of our guinea pigs just gave birth in her foster home, so we even have baby guinea pigs,” she says. “And we always have a great selection of house rabbits.”

“Do your research,” advises Van Tuyl. “There are plenty of resources to tap into that can provide information such as: How much does an animal cost annually to care for, traits of specific breeds, plans for after COVID-19 and a return to ‘normalcy’ and potential trainers. Those with no dog (especially puppy) or cat experience are encouraged to find ways to spend time with canine and feline friends (pets of friends, neighbors, family members) before considering bringing one home permanently.”

“One of my favorite resources for families adopting dogs is Love Has No Age Limit—Welcoming an Adopted Dog into Your Home by Patricia B. McConnell, PhD, and Karen B. London, PhD, says Thevenin. “I think adopting families should also know that your new family member can take some time to get settled into your home—sometimes as much as a year or more, depending on their past experience and age.”

What About Fostering? 

Fostering is a great way to see what it’s like to welcome a pet into your family. Thevenin says they get new pets in every day and “you can start the process by filling out the foster application on our website.”

 At SAVE, foster care serves a different purpose. “Fostering is reserved for animals whose needs cannot be met in a shelter environment, whether it’s a terrified dog or a kitten too young for adoption,” says Van Tuyl. “We currently have established fosters that are assisting in that capacity. All of the animals within the shelter are highly adoptable and we are working hard to keep our facility full (every empty cage means an animal is at risk somewhere else), so there is no need presently.”

Whether you’re just starting your research or your family is ready to bring home a cat, dog or other friend, their presence can be a wonderful source of cheer during the pandemic, not to mention a great reason to get out of the house, play in the yard or just get in some serious snuggle time.

“Families are home and it’s a great time to integrate a new pet into your life,” says Thevenin.

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