U.S. pet adoption boom: Americans seek companionship

A rather unexpected consequence of the coronavirus crisis on the other side of the Atlantic : whereas one could fear a massive abandonment of pets, as in other countries, the shelters are emptying in the United States thanks to the pandemic. The inhabitants confined to their homes are adopting and welcoming animals in droves.

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“We’ve never seen anything like this,” exclaims Kitty Block, president and director of the Humane Society of the United States, an animal rights group that partners with nearly 400 shelters nationwide.

“Fostering and adoptions have exploded,” she says. “All the shelters are saying the same thing. It’s amazing how many lives have been saved.

When the coronavirus outbreak occurred, shelters — most of which had to close because of containment orders — put out calls for adoptions and the public response exceeded expectations, she says.

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There is no shortage of activity at shelters, as here at the Humane Society of the United States.

There is no shortage of activity in shelters, as seen here at the Humane Society of the United States.

Cats, dogs, rabbits, guinea pigs and chickens have found homes as Americans seek pets to help them through the crisis and cope with the need to stay in their homes. “We always said we wanted to get a dog, but it was never the right time until recently,” says Jalene Hillery, a teacher in San Diego, California, who recently adopted Mason, a pit bull from a local shelter.

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She says that being at home with her husband, and two young sons, has made the adoption smooth, as they have time to care for the dog and help him adjust to his new environment. “We were able to bond with him, train him, and it was a lot of fun,” she says.

Mason has been a great companion for her sons, aged 9 and 11, who are bored without their classmates and needed something to calm their anxiety.

“The dog fills a need and provides comfort, love, and distraction,” she adds. “It’s almost like it’s too good to be true.”

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“Alleviating isolation and stress”

Shelters from Wisconsin to North Carolina, Virginia to Colorado all report a sharp increase in temporary foster care placements.

Sherri Franklin, founder of the Muttville Senior Dog Rescue in San Francisco, says she has never seen such an outpouring of community support in her 25 years of working in animal welfare. “When the lockdown was declared (in March), we had 86 dogs in our care, and we were able to find homes for all of them within 48 hours,” she says.

“Adopting a dog during this time is good for the dog… but even more so for the human who needs a reason to get up in the morning and a connection in this world as well as something to alleviate the isolation and stress,” notes Ms Franklin.

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For Sarah Chan, 25, who lives in San Diego with her partner, Morgan Miller, also 25, adopting Silvia was a no-brainer after seeing a photo of the cat on the Instagram account of a local shelter.

Lauren Amaral, 20, meanwhile, decided to foster two guinea pigs — Ally and Emi — to help her local shelter and have emotional support.

“Having them makes me happy. They bring me a lot of joy,” says Ms Amaral, who is studying for a nursing degree. “Every time I pet them, I feel much better because it’s a very stressful time, and these little guinea pigs are the sweetest girls on earth.”

©humane society of the united states

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