More dog and cat adoptions at Philly Animal Shelters as demand remains high amid the coronavirus

Gianna Masini spent the first several months of the pandemic feeling isolated in her downtown apartment. She and her boyfriend had talked about getting a dog for a while, but it never seemed like the right time — until coronavirus turned everyone’s lives upside down and Masini found out she’d be working from home for the indefinite future.

In August, Masini, 24, drove on a whim to the Brandywine Valley in West Chester and fell in love with Maui, a German Shepherd mix puppy.

“It’s great for being alone,” she said, “and it’s been a really good deterrent” against street harassment and people who don’t maintain a six-foot social distance on the husband’s usual walks.

Were it not for the pandemic, Masini, who works in digital marketing, said she would likely still be dog-free, living a life devoid of penny-pinching Zoom calls and destructive toys strewn on the floor but also without Maui’s adorable face that melts her heart even when he misbehaves.

Masini is one of many Philadelphia-area residents who have turned to the companionship of dogs and cats to get through the pandemic.

Animal shelters and rescue organizations in Pennsylvania and New Jersey say dogs and cats are still being adopted more quickly than usual. The surge in adoption and adoption began when the pandemic hit in March, and demand hasn’t stopped nearly a year later. While puppies and kittens have always been popular, now dogs and cats of all ages are in high demand.

But fear not, as shelters have noted, there are dogs and cats up for adoption if potential owners are willing to be patient and flexible.

Nationally, organizations are seeing the same trend. Since March, monthly dog ​​adoptions have increased compared to the same months in 2019, according to a COVID-19 report from the National Shelter Animal Statistics Database, Shelter Animal Count.

The pandemic “has been really tough for everyone, but for shelter animals, it’s probably the best thing that has ever happened to them,” said Justina Calgiano, director of development and public relations for the Providence Animal Center.

Shelters have overcome challenges, too. Providence Animal Center stopped accepting animals for about a month when the pandemic hit. They start taking appointment-only adoptions in early summer. The slots are often booked 10 days in advance, she says, and last month they registered 16 adoptions on a Sunday, a number common only in the busiest adoption month, December, in pre-pandemic times.

In mid-January, Providence temporarily closed for two weeks after employees tested positive for the coronavirus. Other shelters have also dealt with these setbacks. The Pennsylvania SPCA headquarters in Philadelphia was closed to the public last week because some employees had to quarantine due to exposure to the virus.

Unlike some facilities in the area, Providence Animal Center has no more empty homes than usual, Calgiano said.

Staff are facilitating frequent transfers from high-kill shelters, and people are still turning over animals, she said, at the same rates as before the pandemic.

At the Brandywine Valley SPCA, which has several shelters open in West Chester and Delaware, adoptions were up 15% in 2020 compared to 2019, said director of marketing Linda Turelli. At the same time, she added, with people spending much more time at home than usual, the organization is seeing fewer stray and lost animals entering.

“Our shelters are definitely more empty than they were in years past,” Torelli said. But we view empty kennels as an opportunity to save lives. … With all the space we have in our shelters, we can help other shelters.”

Like Providence, the Brandywine Valley SPCA works with shelters in the South, where there are more stray animals because a warmer climate lengthens the mating season, fewer dogs and cats are spayed or neutered, and there are fewer resources and less funding for animal rescue efforts.

Last month, about 90 dogs were transported to Delaware from an overcrowded shelter in Louisiana, where some Brandywine Valley employees are completing a year-long “embedding” program to help the facility.

While adoptions may end, Torelli said, people interested in obtaining a rescue dog should not be dissuaded.

“If someone is going to adopt, it might take them a few stops at the shelter,” she said. “There are still animals to be saved. Absolutely.”

The open-access shelter is taking care of about 20% fewer animals than before the pandemic, said development director Gina DeMarco, at the Homeward Bound pet adoption center in Blackwood, Camden County. The network of Homeward Bound sitters has also increased, she said, as some people want help in the short term but know their post-pandemic life may not be ideal for a pet.

It’s not just the dog or cat that benefits when they’re adopted or fostered, DiMarco said.

“You have people who are very lonely and looking for that companionship,” she said. “Feeling like they’re doing something good to get out of this negative situation is a really hopeful feeling for people.”

With the coronavirus yet to recede and many people still working from home, local shelters said they haven’t seen an increase in surrenders, which many fear will happen after the initial influx of adoptions.

Many people who have adopted during the pandemic, Torelli said, have told shelter staff they’ve been thinking about getting a pet for months or years, so she wasn’t particularly worried about the high rate of return.

Shelters said they are working even harder to create support systems for dog owners, so they can prepare their pups for when humans return to normal work and social schedules.

Calgiano said the Providence Animal Center encourages new dog parents to take advantage of their own socialization and behavior programs, or work on their own to address animal separation anxiety.

“It’s not just a one-stop shop for us,” she said. “It’s about them not going to the shelter again.”

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