Animal shelters are left EMPTY as thousands of families turn to fostering pets

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Animal shelters are left EMPTY as thousands of families turn to fostering pets

It wasn't meant to be a permanent thing, just something to bring a little joy at a time when joy is notably scarce.But as soon as the puppies emerged

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It wasn’t meant to be a permanent thing, just something to bring a little joy at a time when joy is notably scarce.

But as soon as the puppies emerged from their crate and into her excited children’s arms Lia Santos knew there was ‘zero chance,’ that they were only there for the morning. 

Shelter puppies, terrier mixes, Carmel and Odie had found their forever home.

The Santos family is just one among thousands to have adopted or fostered shelter animals in recent weeks in what has proved to be an unexpected side-effect of COVID-19 shutdowns, social distancing and orders to shelter in place.

Many well-known figures and celebrities –  like Donna Brazile, Selena Gomez, Miley Cyrus and Kaia Gerber – have also gotten on board with the trend and enthusiastically encouraged others to adopt or foster an animal in need if they can. 

DailyMail.com has spoken to shelters across America and the picture that has emerged is that of a pandemic phenomenon on a record-breaking scale.

Thousands of families have been fostering cats and dogs during the nation-wide lockdowns due to the coronavirus pandemic, including the Santos family who have fostered two pupped Carmel and Odie

Thousands of families have been fostering cats and dogs during the nation-wide lockdowns due to the coronavirus pandemic, including the Santos family who have fostered two pupped Carmel and Odie

Thousands of families have been fostering cats and dogs during the nation-wide lockdowns due to the coronavirus pandemic, including the Santos family who have fostered two pupped Carmel and Odie 

Typically, the Atlanta Humane Society (pictured) has 500 animals in their care at any given time and as of today they only have 15 animals in their shelter

Typically, the Atlanta Humane Society (pictured) has 500 animals in their care at any given time and as of today they only have 15 animals in their shelter

Typically, the Atlanta Humane Society (pictured) has 500 animals in their care at any given time and as of today they only have 15 animals in their shelter

The Humane Society has run out of adoptions as people are quarantined amid the Coronovirus Pandemic and are looking to animals for companionship

The Humane Society has run out of adoptions as people are quarantined amid the Coronovirus Pandemic and are looking to animals for companionship

The Humane Society has run out of adoptions as people are quarantined amid the Coronovirus Pandemic and are looking to animals for companionship

Many well-known figures and celebrities - like Donna Brazile -have also gotten on board with the trend and went on Fox News to show off her newest family member

Many well-known figures and celebrities - like Donna Brazile -have also gotten on board with the trend and went on Fox News to show off her newest family member

Many well-known figures and celebrities – like Donna Brazile -have also gotten on board with the trend and went on Fox News to show off her newest family member 

In Washington DC, the Humane Rescue Alliance has seen more than 1,000 people sign up to foster in just ten days. 

The Dumb Friends League Shelter, Denver – the largest in the Rocky Mountain region caring for 22,000 animals a year – currently has a waiting list of 2,000 people wanting to foster. Shelters in New York have seen a ten-fold uptake in applications to adopt; foster enquiries in Pennsylvania have risen from three to five per week to more than 40 a day.

From San Francisco to Chicago shelters usually faced with the daunting upward hill struggle to house animals, sit empty. 

Kansas City’s KC Pet Project had 676 pets in their care, with 356 of those in foster homes, at the beginning of March. Halfway through the month that number had dwindled to 500 and as of April 6 they don’t have a single animal for adoption.

Similarly, last week, shelters in Rochester, New York and Riverside, South Carolina were among several to report that they had been cleared out of adoptable animals for the first time ever, while adoption and fostering applications to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Los Angeles and New York City are up 200 percent.

The reasons are manifold. People want to help at a time when they feel helpless. 

Many suddenly have time to care for an animal as they work or school from home. 

Some simply recognize that an animal in need might also answer a sharply felt need of their own for companionship and comfort. 

This dog is one of just 15 animals left at the the Atlanta Humane Society shelter where there are typically 500 animals available for adoption

This dog is one of just 15 animals left at the the Atlanta Humane Society shelter where there are typically 500 animals available for adoption

This dog is one of just 15 animals left at the the Atlanta Humane Society shelter where there are typically 500 animals available for adoption 

Pictured is Govi, an American Blue Heeler blend waiting to be adopted from the Atlanta Humane Society. The Humane Society of Atlanta currently has about 200 animals in foster care and 74 of them have applications in for adoption

Pictured is Govi, an American Blue Heeler blend waiting to be adopted from the Atlanta Humane Society. The Humane Society of Atlanta currently has about 200 animals in foster care and 74 of them have applications in for adoption

Pictured is Govi, an American Blue Heeler blend waiting to be adopted from the Atlanta Humane Society. The Humane Society of Atlanta currently has about 200 animals in foster care and 74 of them have applications in for adoption 

Jaxon, a Rottwilier blend is waiting to be adopted from the animal shelter. According to Christina Hill, of the Atlanta Humane Society, 'It's been incredible to see the amount of support

Jaxon, a Rottwilier blend is waiting to be adopted from the animal shelter. According to Christina Hill, of the Atlanta Humane Society, 'It's been incredible to see the amount of support

Jaxon, a Rottwilier blend is waiting to be adopted from the animal shelter. According to Christina Hill, of the Atlanta Humane Society, ‘It’s been incredible to see the amount of support

Celebs getting on the adoption trend during COVID-19 lockdowns 

Many well-known figures and celebrities have got on board with the trend and enthusiastically encouraged others to adopt or foster an animal in need if they can.

Grammy winner Billie Eilish happily admitted to being a ‘foster fail,’ earlier this week when she posted news that she had adopted one of two pit bull puppies that she had been fostering since the beginning of March.

The 18-year-old singer posted that the, ‘little nameless monkey’ was hers while assuring fans that the other puppy had been adopted into another home.

Selena Gomez, Miley Cyrus and Kaia Gerber have all enthusiastically joined the ranks of celebrities adopting or fostering animals during the COVID-19 shut-down.

Gerber had only intended to foster one puppy but found herself unable to separate two brothers. She encouraged others to consider getting a ‘quarantine buddy’ if their, ‘living/financial situation allows.’

For Crazy Rich Asians star Henry Golding and his wife Liv Lo who picked up a foster puppy on Tuesday, taking her for a walk is he said, ‘literally the highlight of our day.’

Democratic strategist, best-selling author, adjunct professor and commentator Donna Bazile echoed the sentiment when she shared a post Saturday of her with the dog she adopted from a shelter in South Carolina. ‘What’s on your menu?’ she asked, ‘Adoption day and I got a new dog from South Carolina. Thank you #LuckyDog Rescue! She’s 2 years and some change. I’m the lucky one,’

According to Atlanta based Human Resources Consultant, Lia, 44, it was this latter reason that tipped the balance for her and stay-at-home husband Ed, 53 and saw them relent to daughter Leila, 11, and 10-year-old son Mick’s pleas for a puppy.

She explained ‘The kids had been begging for a dog for a long time and so was my husband – he’s always had dogs, but we haven’t as a family. I’d always felt we didn’t really have time to train puppies but obviously I’m home more now and the kids’ school has shut down for the rest of the year.

‘Honestly I felt like the kids were starting to get sad. They’re very, very social. They’re both extroverts so not having play dates and social interaction and not having sports has been really quite a change for them. My son was probably spending 80 percent of his time in the driveway shooting basketballs because that’s what he loves to do but I could see they were finding it kind of hard.

‘A friend of mine was fostering the puppies. She knew the kids wanted a dog and she knew they were feeling kind of sad so she said, ‘Why don’t I bring the puppies over and they can just play with them?’

‘I just wanted to bring them a little joy at this crazy time. It was not going to be something permanent just yet but as soon as they met them I knew there was no way we weren’t getting one and zero chance if we got one we wouldn’t get the other.’ 

The kids handed their mother a ‘contract’ of ownership along with their earnest commitment to train, walk and care for Carmel and Odie that day and it was pretty much a done deal.

According to Christina Hill, of the Atlanta Humane Society, ‘It’s been incredible to see the amount of support.

‘We typically see a hundred or so people reaching out each week about adoptions or fostering and now we’re in thousands upon thousands.

‘Typically, we have about 500 animals in our care at any given time and right now, to date, we have 15 animals in our shelter.

‘We have about 200 animals in foster care and 74 of them have applications in for adoption and we’re just waiting for meet and greets.’

Dallas Animal Services, the third-largest organization in the country with an intake of 40,000 cats and dogs a year, shut its doors to the public on March 24.

On any given day this shelter could be home to 500 animals. As of last Friday, only 12 cats and 57 dogs remained and not all of those animals are suitable for home placement due to variety of behavioral, medical or legal reasons.

This time last year the shelter saw ten dogs placed in foster homes between March 13 and March 23. This year 149 were placed in that same time period.

Director of Dallas Animal Services, Ed Jamison, 46, thinks that the change in so many people’s lifestyles has seen shelters reach a new audience of people who might previously have dismissed calls for foster homes without much thought.

He said, ‘For all the marketing and social media that we do I think we’ve been able to reach other circles beyond what we have in the past. People who might kind of tone out animal appeals because they just don’t think it applies to their lives are at home and find that they maybe have time and they’re stopping and giving it serious thought.’

Most shelters put out an urgent plea to existing foster homes and the public at large towards the beginning of March as coronavirus shutdowns loomed. With only a skeleton staff remaining at facilities it became more important than ever to find homes for animals suitable for placement.

The application process moved online with many prospective fosterers and adopters meeting their animal for the first time in carefully orchestrated curbside drop-offs and pick-ups following video conference interviews and ‘meet ups.’

Jamison said, ‘I’ve spent the last two and a half years trying to get as many people as possible into my shelter and suddenly we were faced with a totally different reality.

‘We knew from March 13 that life had changed completely, and we needed to get as many animals out of the shelter and into homes as possible.

‘But there’s nothing like a crisis to force you to think creatively and be nimble and we’ve been really humbled by the outpouring of help and the way people in our community have stepped up.’

Many shelters are seeing people adopting directly from foster homes and some have waived adoption fees to ease the process for those willing to adopt at this time.

Forty-eight-year-old Lois Saunders from Decatur, Georgia adopted her crossbreed Scout last week.

The High School Assistant Principal and mother to two sons, ages 20 and 24, had long wanted to adopt an animal but had always been put off by the fact that she worked such long hours.

The first dog she looked to adopt turned out to be too highly strung to be a good fit for her home, but the woman fostering it knew of another animal that, she thought, would be more suitable for Lois.

Kevin Brown and Kathie Guthrie are pictured with five-month-old Ziggy (left) and Bella, 3, (right) who they are fostering and plan to adopt

Kevin Brown and Kathie Guthrie are pictured with five-month-old Ziggy (left) and Bella, 3, (right) who they are fostering and plan to adopt

Kevin Brown and Kathie Guthrie are pictured with five-month-old Ziggy (left) and Bella, 3, (right) who they are fostering and plan to adopt 

This is what a 'foster fail looks like.  Kathie and her husband Kevin have fallen in love with five-month-old Ziggy

This is what a 'foster fail looks like.  Kathie and her husband Kevin have fallen in love with five-month-old Ziggy

This is what a ‘foster fail looks like.  Kathie and her husband Kevin have fallen in love with five-month-old Ziggy 

Ziggy is seen playing with kittens that the couple are also fostering. Kathie Guthrie was one of thousands who volunteered to foster an animal rather than permanently adopt, but now the couple are adopting Ziggy

Ziggy is seen playing with kittens that the couple are also fostering. Kathie Guthrie was one of thousands who volunteered to foster an animal rather than permanently adopt, but now the couple are adopting Ziggy

Ziggy is seen playing with kittens that the couple are also fostering. Kathie Guthrie was one of thousands who volunteered to foster an animal rather than permanently adopt, but now the couple are adopting Ziggy 

Adorable pup Ziggy is seen in front of a motivational sign that reads: 'Everything will be ok'. It was only when a couple expressed interest in adopting five-month-old Ziggy that Kathie and her husband realized they didn't want to let her go

Adorable pup Ziggy is seen in front of a motivational sign that reads: 'Everything will be ok'. It was only when a couple expressed interest in adopting five-month-old Ziggy that Kathie and her husband realized they didn't want to let her go

Adorable pup Ziggy is seen in front of a motivational sign that reads: ‘Everything will be ok’. It was only when a couple expressed interest in adopting five-month-old Ziggy that Kathie and her husband realized they didn’t want to let her go

According to Lois, ‘As soon as I met Scout I knew. His energy was right, he was happy, and that tail would not stop wagging.

‘His background is a bit vague, but I know he’s about four years old and he had been in a shelter in Atlanta for a month and had been transferred from another one before that. He’d only been fostered for a couple of days when I found him.’

Lois hopes that by the time school is back in session at the end of the summer Scout will have had plenty time to settle and bond. For her part she has felt the benefits of having him there already.

She said, ‘I wouldn’t really consider myself an emotional person, but this is a stressful time. My mother is a nurse working at the frontline of things and to hear her say that she is, ‘scared,’ to go to work is very hard. It doesn’t take much to make me cry these days.

‘Scout is a pretty big dog, but he considers himself a lap-dog and the other night when I got upset and started crying he noticed right away and started to kind of kiss me and look after me.

‘It was really very sweet and very comforting. We’re both getting something we need out of him being here.’

Lois Saunders, High School Assistant Principal, is pictured with four-year-old Scout who she adopted from his foster home two weeks ago

Lois Saunders, High School Assistant Principal, is pictured with four-year-old Scout who she adopted from his foster home two weeks ago

Lois Saunders, High School Assistant Principal, is pictured with four-year-old Scout who she adopted from his foster home two weeks ago

Kathie Guthrie, 50, was one of thousands who volunteered to foster an animal rather than permanently adopt. A physician’s assistant at a headache clinic, based in Sandy Springs, Georgia, Kathie’s working hours have been slashed due to the pandemic. Her husband Kevin Brown, 49, is a mechanical engineer whose work usually involves a great deal of travel and so he is now grounded and at home.

Kathie said, ‘We have a dog we adopted, Bella, and we had talked about getting a friend for her, but we weren’t seriously considering it right now.

‘We’re already fostering kittens and then the foster coordinator at the shelter put out an email notice saying they had 33 puppies just out of quarantine with nowhere to go. It was a case of, ‘Can you help? And if you can which one can you take?’ So it was really very random.’

It was only when a couple expressed interest in adopting five-month-old Ziggy that Kathie and her husband realized they didn’t want to let her go.

She said, ‘We met these gentlemen, they came over and we met out on our deck with us all at the edges and the dog in the middle to observe social distancing.

‘It turned out she was listed on the internet as a small dog – which she certainly isn’t – and they came and said, ‘Oh she’s going to be huge; this isn’t what we’re looking for. But you love her so much why don’t you adopt her?’

‘We were so relieved they didn’t take her so that was kind of a big clue that this was going to be a ‘foster fail,’ which is what they call it when you end up adopting.’

Christina Hill, who works for the Atlanta Humane Society, is seen in the empty cat room with a face mask. The application process moved online with many prospective fosterers and adopters meeting their animal for the first time in video conferences

Christina Hill, who works for the Atlanta Humane Society, is seen in the empty cat room with a face mask. The application process moved online with many prospective fosterers and adopters meeting their animal for the first time in video conferences

Christina Hill, who works for the Atlanta Humane Society, is seen in the empty cat room with a face mask. The application process moved online with many prospective fosterers and adopters meeting their animal for the first time in video conferences

The cat room is now  completely empty as all of the cats that were in their facility have now been adopted or are in foster care

The cat room is now  completely empty as all of the cats that were in their facility have now been adopted or are in foster care

The cat room is now  completely empty as all of the cats that were in their facility have now been adopted or are in foster care

Hill plays with Jaxon as he waits to be adopted. 'We typically see a hundred or so people reaching out each week about adoptions or fostering and now we're in thousands upon thousands,' Hill said

Hill plays with Jaxon as he waits to be adopted. 'We typically see a hundred or so people reaching out each week about adoptions or fostering and now we're in thousands upon thousands,' Hill said

Hill plays with Jaxon as he waits to be adopted. ‘We typically see a hundred or so people reaching out each week about adoptions or fostering and now we’re in thousands upon thousands,’ Hill said

This time last year the shelter saw ten dogs placed in foster homes between March 13 and March 23. This year 149 were placed in that same time period

This time last year the shelter saw ten dogs placed in foster homes between March 13 and March 23. This year 149 were placed in that same time period

This time last year the shelter saw ten dogs placed in foster homes between March 13 and March 23. This year 149 were placed in that same time period

An Atlanta Humane Society worker is pictured processing the influx of virtual adoptions

An Atlanta Humane Society worker is pictured processing the influx of virtual adoptions

An Atlanta Humane Society worker is pictured processing the influx of virtual adoptions

Asked why she decided to take an animal in right now in the first place Kathie said, ‘With everything that is going on right now it’s something we can do to help that helps us too.

‘It’s good for the soul.’

The vast majority of shelters have now closed their doors to all but animal control cases and emergencies.

But a new, and rather sobering, category of animals in need has started to emerge; those made homeless, temporarily or permanently, by COVID-19.

Alicia Haefele Vial of Louisiana’s Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals explained, ‘I don’t think anybody was expecting to see shelters emptying as they have but it’s allowing us to switch to a different mentality in a way that’s proved kind of timely.

‘We know that all of the animals in our care are okay right now so now we’re able to start to think of ways to help the new sort of emergency arising with owners affected by coronavirus.

‘Either they can’t afford to feed their pet, or they are too sick to care for them or in the worst-case scenario they’ve passed away leaving an animal without an obvious home.’

Pictured are Atlanta Humane Society workers unloading charitable donations made to the Atlanta Humane Sociey.

Pictured are Atlanta Humane Society workers unloading charitable donations made to the Atlanta Humane Sociey.

Pictured are Atlanta Humane Society workers unloading charitable donations made to the Atlanta Humane Sociey.

Some donations arrive in the form of Amazon packaged boxes and others arrive in the back of a car loaded with cat and dog food and other supplies needed for the health and well being of the animals

Some donations arrive in the form of Amazon packaged boxes and others arrive in the back of a car loaded with cat and dog food and other supplies needed for the health and well being of the animals

Some donations arrive in the form of Amazon packaged boxes and others arrive in the back of a car loaded with cat and dog food and other supplies needed for the health and well being of the animals

As with many organizations the SPCA in New Orleans has set up food pantries providing pet-food for people who have lost their income in the crises. And the shelter cages so recently vacated are gradually being turned over to the pets of those too sick to care for them in the short term if friends or family are unable to step in.

The hope, Haefele Vial said, in all such cases is to be able to keep pets with their owners or reunite them with them when circumstances improve.

Jamison echoed the sentiment, ‘I do worry about the economic side of things and we’re looking to get put people in touch with the resources they need. Don’t let not being able to afford a bag of dog food or not being able to afford a vet bill be the reason you give up your pet. Let us know. Let us help.’

He added, ‘This really has put everyone working in animal welfare across the country very much on the same page and that’s not always the case.

‘Fostering is the future. The message is so clear. When you foster an animal, you’re saving two lives – you’re giving an animal a home and you’re freeing up a cage for another animal in need.’

 

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