The COVID-19 pandemic is grinding many normal activities to a halt, but for Wright-Way animal rescue in Morton Grove, business is booming.
The demand to adopt or temporarily foster a cat or dog is so great these days that the organization doesn’t have near the number of animals for everyone interested in bringing one home, said Katie Muldoon, Wright-Way’s chief of staff.
“Essentially, every animal in our care is getting adopted by the first weekend they are available,” Muldoon said.
Between March 16 and April 16, Wright-Way received roughly 6,600 adoption applications — more than double what the organization normally receives during a one-month period, Muldoon said.
For the same period, Wright-Way took in just 562 animals — largely dogs — from around Illinois and other states as well.
On the fostering side, Wright-Way received 14 applications from households interested in fostering an animal between March 16 and April 16, 2019, but this year, a staggering 1,640 applications were filed within that one-month timeframe, according to Muldoon.
“We actually don’t have enough animals for the amount of fosters that want to help,” Muldoon said. “It’s a good problem to have, but it does leave disappointed people.”
Wright-Way is not alone in experiencing a surge of people wanting to give pets a home. Kitty Block, CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, said interest in adoption and fostering is up across the country since the pandemic began.
“I think it’s a combination of reasons,” Block said. “We’re going through a global pandemic and it’s anxiety-provoking and it’s isolating. Those who are fortunate enough to work remotely are doing it from home, so people have the time now and the desire to open up their homes to a pet, to give that animal a chance. People who love animals are really wanting to do something meaningful during this time. It also helps with the social isolation we are all feeling.”
According to PetPoint, which compiles data related to animals in rescue and welfare organizations, the number of animals in foster care has increased weekly since mid-March when many stay-at-home orders took effect, and is up 29% for the year.
As of April 17, there were 45,146 cats and dogs in foster care among 1,191 animal welfare organizations across the country, compared to 34,996 animals during the week of April 13-19, 2019, the data show.
Compared to last year, the organization also reported decreases of more than 20% in the number of euthanized dogs and cats, the number of pets being surrendered by their owners and the number of cats and dogs taken in by animal welfare organizations.
While interest in adoptions may be up at many locations, PetPoint’s data shows adoptions among the 1,191 animal welfare organizations is actually down 10 percent compared to last year, but the number of dogs and cats taken in by these organizations is also 56% less than last year, according to the data, making fewer animals available.
At Wright-Way, Muldoon believes part of the reason adoption applications are up right now is that many families considering adding a pet to their household have simply accelerated their plans because they are sheltering at home during the pandemic.
“I think a lot of people held out until they weren’t too busy to house-train a puppy and a lot of families planned on waiting for summer, which we see every year,” Muldoon said. “I think all of the reasons for waiting flew out the window during the extended quarantine.”
Whatever the reason, Muldoon said she is grateful it happening.
“During all of this stress, negativity and uncertainty, what’s happened with animal sheltering has been a huge, positive development,” Muldoon said. “It’s reassuring that some good can come out of this, that animals can now find homes.”
Those who are able to adopt and have passed the application process can choose a pet from Wright-Way’s website, Muldoon explained. Due to COVID-19 concerns, the organization, located at 5915 Lincoln Ave., is closed to the public, but is offering curbside pick-up of cats and dogs, with staff wearing protective masks and gloves and new owners never having to leave their cars, Muldoon said.
Beth Ginsbach admitted she wasn’t thinking of adding a second dog to her family, but when a friend asked to borrow a pet carrier for someone who had decided to adopt a dog, Ginsbach was inspired to do the same.
“Our one dog is a little older and we would have gotten another dog once she passed, but I thought, why not start a little early?” Ginsbach said. “I have three teenagers. There would be no other time where we would all be at home at the same time. I thought they could help with the puppy and it be a little distraction from everything going on.”
After struggling to find available puppies closer to her home in Milford, Michigan, Ginsbach widened her search and ultimately found Willow, a mixed breed four-month-old puppy, on Wright-Way’s website. The family made the 285-mile trek to pick up Willow on April 16.
“She is a really good puppy; she’s very smart and fun and she’s working out really well,” Ginsbach shared.She added: “It’s been nice to tell people that one silver lining from (the pandemic) is that shelters are overwhelmed with people wanting to adopt. That’s a good thing.”
Requests to foster and adopt animals is also up at PAWS Chicago, said Sarah McDonald, spokeswoman for the organization.
McDonald said PAWS has received approximately 6,000 fostering applications and over 4,000 adoption inquiries. The organization has about 400 animals within its programs, most of them currently in foster care, she said.
“Pre-COVID, we would adopt close to 100 dogs and cats every week,” McDonald said.Applications to foster animals have averaged about 400 per week, she said. Previously, the organization received about 50 new applications per week, she said.
Unfortunately for those seeking to adopt, fewer available staff — not to mention more applicants than available animals — has resulted in fewer adoptions actually taking place, though numbers have been slowly going up, McDonald said.
In response to the pandemic, PAWS has also launched a temporary foster program for people who cannot care for their pets due to COVID-19 illness or because they are working additional hours in the healthcare industry, McDonald explained.
When asked if they are concerned about a potential spike in the number of pets returning to shelters and rescue organizations due to financial challenges caused by pandemic job loss or families not having enough time for their new pet once stay-at-home orders end, Muldoon, Block and McDonald each expressed optimism that this would not be the case.
McDonald explained that combined with a “robust adoption process” that checks a family’s financial health and lifestyle, PAWS will welcome animals back in the event their owners cannot care for them long-term.Wright-Way also checks out its adoptive families and will find new homes if any are returned, Muldoon said.“We are not afraid of returns,” she said.
Through Pets for Life, the Humane Society helps families with financial needs keep their pets, Block said.“We want to make sure we can keep animals in their homes,” she said. “We get out in front before they would be surrendered. Of course, we can’t do that everywhere, and we’ve been providing grants to shelters to help them be able to take in these surrendered animals.”
Muldoon said she anticipates the greater interest in pet fostering that grew out of the COVID-19 pandemic will continue once life regains some sense of normalcy.
“This is a great example of what can happen when people open their homes, especially to fostering,” she said. “Hopefully, the future has fewer sheltered animals and a compassionate community and foster networks stepping up to solve this problem (of homeless animals), which is a community issue.”
Despite the high demand for puppies, pet stores across the country are being told they may not sell puppies, only food and supplies, all while shelters and dog adoption facilities are able to “adopt” out dogs and puppies. Who gets to decide who gets to profit?
Why is it bad for a pet store to make a living selling puppies and kittens (in a legally regulated form) but totally okay for unregulated animal shelters get to adopt out dogs that the shelter staff have no background knowledge of the animals, other than what they can guess or what the ex-owners tell them.
Why is the way animal shelters are structured safer? How is that more regulated? Who thinks that is better for people OR for animals?
This system will eventually lead to more animal deaths than with pet stores or private sellers, because an aggressive dog would never make it to a pet store it would be rehabilitated and given a job appropriate to it’s temperament, not put in a home with young children.
Aggressive dogs that come out of shelters are often taken back and re-adopted to another family, and after the dog hurts enough people, it is usually put down.
Maybe, as a country, we should agree to support the people who know about dogs and care enough to not put people and animals in danger, and not support those who scantily disguise a profit-operation as a dog adoption facility for a shelter.
Dog adoption is dog selling. The two should not be treated differently, they should be regulated the same and structured the same. So drop the moniker of adoption and call it what it is, selling animals to people who want a little extra happiness in their lives.
Let’s give the people what they want, but with a unified approach. It’s 2020 people, we all know it’s not us vs. us it’s us vs. the government, us vs. the powers that be. It’s HSUS, PETA, ASPCA, and controlling government officials that we are against, it’s all the people that want to take animals away from us forever.
PLEASE remember that we love animals more than we want to conform to some organizations machinations. I want my children to be able to pet a dog or ride a horse or milk a cow, we can’t ruin that for the next generation.
Italicized paragraphs are additions of the Cavalry Group Team.
Read the original article by Jennifer Johnson at chicagotribune.com here.