While the coronavirus pandemic has rattled the world – spreading fear, mass layoffs and imposing social distancing, which leaves people feeling isolated and stir-crazy — COVID 19 has also brought good news and bad news for cats and dogs.
Let’s start with the bad news.
As the challenge of coping with the pandemic stretches on, family pets are being surrendered to shelters or simply abandoned on the streets in growing numbers.
Here at the Humane Society of the Nature Coast, we receive numerous calls every day from people wanting to surrender their pets or to ask where to take those they have found abandoned in their neighborhoods. Many say they have called all of the other shelters and are being told the same thing: “We have no more room.”
Some are abandoning their pets out of fear that the pet can contract and spread the coronavirus. “Many of these misguided fears grew out of report that a dog in Hong Kong tested positive for COVID-19 last week but was not infected with the virus,” American Humane reported March 4. However, they stressed “there’s no evidence that your cats and dogs are more likely to spread the coronavirus than your cell phone or keys.”
Based on evidence outlined by Psychology Today March 19, and results from other sources, the Center for Disease Control, World Health Organization, American Veterinary Medical Association, and the British Veterinary Association have all concluded that the threat of transmission from dogs to humans is virtually nonexistent.
As reported by the New York Daily News, “shelters are bracing for a flood of surrendered pets as the virus infects the economy.”
Sensing the potential for a greater uptick in surrenders and abandonment, many shelters, like the Humane Society of the Nature Coast, have moved into crisis mode.
Since the pandemic began, we have taken in several pregnant cats, one emergency surrendered cat, had one cat abandoned in a crate at our gate and, at last count, we’ve taken in 21 puppies. When you add the number of cats and dogs we have on-sight, and those we have in foster care, we now have nearly 130 animals in our care. An emergency plea for help – for donations to ensure that we can continue to provide emergency medical treatments for some of our more critical intakes — was made through our blog page and through Facebook.
Our plea for food donations – to feed our on-site fur-babies as well as those in care of our many fosters — were met with an overwhelming response from our community. These donations also enables us to provide food to people in our community who are struggling financially due to layoffs.
NPR reported that Julie Castle, the chief executive officer of Best Friends Animal Society, says shelters are bracing for a repeat of what happened during the 2008 recession. The fear is that, as people become unemployed and possibly their homes, many will feel they have no other choice than to give up their pets.
To those who are considering the idea of surrendering or abandoning your pet due to fears of the coronavirus, we at the Humane Society of the Nature Coast ask that you please reconsider. While it is understandable that you are scared and financially stressed, decisions made out of panic will usually lead to regret. Reach out. Ask for help. Remember: Hard times are a great reminder of how much we need each other.
“Sometimes the hardest thing and the right thing are the same.” ~Anonymous
Okay. Now for the good news.
While quarantines are keeping people at home — cooped up and bored out of their minds — many are dusting off that idea of adding a fur-baby to their family. Where some once thought they wouldn’t have enough time to potty-train and integrate a new pet into their household, they now have all the time in the world.
However, with the restrictions imposed by quarantines and social distancing, shelters must get creative in order to keep the number of adoptions on par with surrenders and abandonments.
As reported by NPR March 29, many shelters are using social media to make their pleas to their communities to foster pets until the pandemic is over. Some are live-streaming adoptable animals. Skype meet-and-greets are growing in popularity. There are even drive-through pick-ups for foster families where staff bring out a pet, give the family a bag of food and away they go.
While we have closed to the General Public, we at the Humane Society of the Nature Coast have developed a new program to enable us to continue the adoption process. For those interested in adopting a new fur baby, we encourage you to log onto our website and look at the cats and dogs we have available. When you see a little fur-face that tugs at your heartstrings, call us and schedule a Meet & Greet. When you arrive, the pet of your choice will be eagerly waiting for you in an outdoor fenced-in play area where you and other family members can play and interact.
If you aren’t sure if you’re ready to adopt a new fur baby, try fostering to find out!
“I think people are gravitating towards pets during this time of uncertainty because they can serve as a source of comfort,” Best Friends Animal Society Chief Executive Officer Julie Castle told CBS News March 26. “The companionship of pets has been shown to reduce stress and lower anxiety, helping people to feel calmer and more secure when the news from the outside world is distressing.”
“Americans are rushing,” USA Today reported March 27, “well, not to their local shelters but to their phones and laptops to check out available pets, to donate money and supplies, to share the word on social media about rescuing homeless balls of furry fun.”
With all of this extra time stuck at home, what a perfect time to train your dog! In fact, the New York Times reported March 26 that Annie Grossman — a dog trainer and co-founder of School for the Dogs in Manhattan – will be live-streaming a free dog training lesson on Saturday at 4pm!
In closing, let me say this:
While stress of the pandemic, empty streets, shuttered restaurants and empty shelves where toilet paper used to be becomes as much a part of our daily lives as laundry, cell phones and a politician’s need to bicker and waste time, the Silver Lining behind this dark cloud is that, in times of crisis, Americans spontaneously pull together. We saw it after the tragedy of 9-11. It’s reflex, as natural as breathing. In spite of our petty differences, catastrophe always brings out the best in us.
As the wise Justice Thurgood Marshal once said: “The measure of a country’s greatness is its ability to retain compassion in time of crisis.”
Check on your neighbors. Make sure they’re okay. Rather than send a text, call your friends and family members. Ask how they’re doing. Share a laugh about the silly things you see each day. I mean really. Who needs three cases of toilet paper?
Oh… and hug your pets. Remember, COVID 19 has also brought good news and bad news for cats and dogs. But if you don’t have one, what a perfect time to adopt!
Who says money can’t buy happiness?