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While many are being forced to quarantine by themselves, others have opted for a furry companion during isolation.
Animal adoption centers across the nation are seeing a surge in pet fostering and adoption rates as Americans continue to abide by stay-at-home orders.
As concerns over the spread of COVID-19 began to rise earlier this year, animal shelters and rescues were forced to close. As a result, Americans in droves stepped up to help. Now house-bound and isolated, people are rushing to care for animals, easing a burden on shelters and providing homes — even if just temporarily — for homeless dogs, cats and other pets.
Under normal circumstances, there are about 6.5 million companion animals that enter animal shelters nationwide every year, according to estimates from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Of course, the number of animals in shelters varies throughout the year depending on breeding seasons and so on, but the ASPCA’s current data shows there has been a near 70 percent increase in animals going into foster care through the organization’s New York City and Los Angeles foster programs compared to the same period in 2019.
As of March 15, more than 1,500 people had completed online foster applications in New York City and Los Angeles, according to an ASPCA spokesperson – which is equivalent to an approximate 500 percent increase from “traditional application numbers.”
More than 300 animals from the ASPCA’s New York City and Los Angeles foster programs are currently in foster care.
“We’ve seen an incredibly compassionate response from people willing to open their homes to foster vulnerable shelter animals during this period of uncertainty," ASPCA President and CEO Matt Bershadker told FOX Business. "Fostering puts shelter animals in safe and loving homes, helps shelters conserve their space and resources, and provides people with comfort and companionship, which is so important right now. It also helps shelter animals acclimate to an eventual life in a home. We applaud all those stepping up for animals in need, even in the midst of so much anxiety.”
Humane Society of the United States CEO and President Kitty Block echoed a similar sentiment as to why people are seemingly adopting or fostering more than they were before and why these actions are essential for in-need animals.
“Pet adoption and fostering are critical now more than ever. Animals bring us pure joy and unconditional love," Block told FOX Business. "With people staying home right now, it can be an ideal time to settle a pet into your home and get to know each other. The companionship is enriching for both the humans and the pets. If a permanent pet is not an option, fostering is an incredibly rewarding experience. Foster homes increase the capacity of shelters to save more lives, provide a safe and comfortable environment for the animal, and can bring health benefits to the foster family.”
She added, “The Humane Society of the United States is seeing communities across the country stepping up like never before as a safety net to help animals in their own community. It’s a game-changer in the sheltering world right now and we truly hope it continues well after this pandemic.”
Coronavirus-related pet adoption has become so prevalent in different areas in the county, one animal shelter in Florida – Friends of Palm Beach County Animal Care and Control – had an entire kennel emptied for the first time in history. The shelter shared the milestone on social media and it quickly went viral and even animal advocate Ellen DeGeneres gave a nod.
"This amazing milestone was made possible by the help and support of our entire community," the organization wrote on Facebook accompanying a video of staff cheering. "Thank you to the shelter staff and volunteers who work tirelessly to care for, find homes for, and advocate for the pets who come through these doors; thank you to our incredible foster parents who open their heart and homes to thousands of pets each year; thank you to everyone who has opted to adopt a shelter pet."
After the pandemic, animal organizations are hopeful that humans will have bonded enough with their furry friends to take another leap of faith.
“We’re hoping for lots of ‘foster failures’ [when people fostering an animal end up adopting the animal], which means organizations will be able to save more animals and we’ll see a reduction in animals in shelters,” Meredith Ayan, the executive director at the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said in an interview with dvm360.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.