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Pandemic leads to surge in animal adoptions, fostering

NEW YORK (AP) — Problems with supply and demand during the coronavirus pandemic have led to shortages not only of items such as hand sanitizer and toilet paper, but in many places, also in pets available for adoption.

Sarah Brasky, the founder and executive director of Foster Dogs Inc., a New York-based nonprofit that helps dogs get out of shelters and into foster homes for their safety, said the demand for dogs from her organization is at an all time high.

“Shelter dogs are really winning in this entire coronavirus experience,” she said. "It’s a strange phenomenon because there was always interest in fostering and rescue but now it is exploding.” Last year at this time, her organization had applications from about 140 people per month. That has risen to about 3,000, Brasky said.

Muddy Paws Rescue, another New York nonprofit, reported shelters they work with are either all out of or almost out of cats and dogs after applications surged as much as 10-fold in the past two weeks.

Emily Lowe adopted two dogs from Muddy Paws after her roommate moved out of New York City because of concerns over COVID-19. “This is a time in my life when I have the resources to give a little extra care and love to a rescue,” she said.

But those cages are not empty just because on an increase in demand, said Kitty Block, the chief executive director of the Humane Society of the United States An initial surge nationally in adoptions during the pandemic has leveled off, as coronavirus-related restrictions have led to shelters taking in only the most at-risk animals.

National statistics show adoptions actually are down from a year ago, she said. “Many shelters and rescues have suspended the ability for the public to casually visit the shelter in order to reduce the potential spread of COVID-19 to staff and have transitioned almost solely to placement of animals into foster homes,” she said. “Maintaining a low shelter population is necessary to prepare for a potential decrease in shelter staff as COVID-19 cases increase, leaving fewer people to care for the animals. ”

James Bias, the executive director of the Connecticut Humane Society, said they also are unable to do elective surgeries, including spaying and neutering, in an effort to preserve personal protective equipment, much of which has been donated to health care providers for humans, he said.

He said right now groups are relying on the public to take care of lost dogs and help neighbors care for pets if they've been impacted by the coronavirus. But there is a concern that as the pandemic wanes there will be a corresponding rise in surrendered pets.

Block said shelters are bracing for a potential increase in intakes and owner surrenders due to widespread human illness and the financial strain the coronavirus has caused, especially among low-wage pet owners.

“Since we have so many people staying at home, fostering right now also is a lot easier,” Bias said. “When people start going back to work, there may not be as many available foster homes."

This story has been corrected to show the proper spelling of the Connecticut organization to Connecticut Humane Society, not Humane Society of Connecticut.

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