By Deanna Albohn
Animal shelters are seeing an increase in adoption and fostering rates across the country and the state during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Last week, the Animal Care Centers of New York City gave 141 animals for fostering, when they’d typically only have around 50, and have received over 3,500 foster applications. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals CEO has seen a 70 percent increase of animals going into foster care than from this time period last year, Matthew Berkshadker, CEO of the organization, said.
Some people are bringing pets into their families to keep them company and capitalize on the health benefits that owning a pet can have.
“Pets relieve stress in eight different ways,” Dr. Alan M. Beck, the Director of the Center for the Human-Animal Bond the Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine, said.
Pets help control blood pressure, increase cardiovascular health, inspire us to exercise more frequently, make us feel less lonely, help us live in the moment, fulfill our need for touch, increase feelings of self-esteem and make us laugh, Beck said.
There is minimal risk of transmission of COVID-19 through animals. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association the coronavirus is more readily transmitted through nonporous surfaces like metal and plastic than porous ones like pet fur, which tends to trap the virus.
Even though the Putnam Humane Society suspended their dog walking and cat volunteer programs on March 23, six days after the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in Putnam County, to stop the spread of the virus, they are operating business as usual.
Nonessential personnel is not allowed on the premises. That includes no in-person donations, adoptions or pet interactions.
“The staff is doing the same routine of care for the animals as before the virus,” Michele Dugan, President of Putnam Humane Society, said. “The only difference is that there are no volunteer dog walkers, but with the extra time staff has with not helping the public and taking in and putting away donations, they are able to walk dogs.”
Former volunteer Kara Constantine was one of the last non-employees to step foot at the shelter before they started limiting volunteers.
“I try to go twice a week,” Constantine said. “I like to spend time with the animals and it’s going to be a hard adjustment not seeing them every week.”
Before she and her family went into self-quarantine, Brynn Alvord, a resident of Carmel, N.Y., adopted a boxer/hound mix puppy from Hartman’s Haven Dog Rescue.
“Coronavirus was definitely our motivation for adopting because we knew that we’d have a lot of time at home to train her and such,” Alvord said. “We’re avoiding stores right now so we did our food and toy shopping [online] through Chewy.”
The dog was being fostered outside of the shelter to help the staff reduce the amount of animals they had to take care of. Alvord said she arranged a pick up with the fostering family.
The Dutchess County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is expecting to see an increase in the amount of animals they care for.
“As predicted, we are now beginning to see animals coming in from people who have been impacted by layoffs,” Lynn Melccaro, Executive Director of DCSPCA said in a Facebook post. “We too have had layoffs here, and many on our staff, myself included, have taken drastic pay cuts in order to stay operational and continue to help these animals.”
Putnam Humane Society adoption forms are being processed online through email only. Once they are approved an appointment must be scheduled to go to the shelter.
“We are using lots of gloves, sanitizer and staying six feet away from each other,” Dugan said. “We are happy to say no one has become ill and we hope and pray it continues.”