By Colleen Sparks
The COVID-19 pandemic is prompting people to adopt and foster furry friends quicker than usual as they crave companionship and have more time to bond with pets.
Animal welfare advocates are thrilled that community members are eager to care for dogs, cats and other animals but also advise folks to carefully consider the commitment, cost and logistics of becoming a pet owner before obtaining one.
The time it took for an animal to get placed with a foster parent from the Arizona Humane Society dropped from an average of six days between March 1 and Dec. 31 of 2019 to an average of three days between March 1 and Dec. 31 of 2020. There was a slight decrease in the average number of days that animals stayed at the organization before being adopted into “fur-ever” homes, from an average of seven days between March 1 and Dec. 31 of 2019 to an average of six days during that same time period last year.
“They’re moving out very quickly,” said Dr. Steven Hansen, president and CEO of the Arizona Humane Society. “A significant amount of research shows pets actually improve our lives. They keep our blood pressure down, keep our stress hormones down. I do think that companion animals are one bright spot of the pandemic and the shelter community has been really innovative to make sure the Valley’s most vulnerable animals have care.”
From March 1 to Dec. 31 of last year, there were 9,252 animals, including dogs, cats and other critters, adopted from the Arizona Humane Society. That is down from 12,092 from March 1 to Dec. 31 of 2019. The Arizona Humane Society streamlined from offering four animal adoption locations to one – its Nina Mason Pulliam Campus for Compassion at 1521 W. Dobbins Road when the pandemic hit for safety reasons. It also added a virtual matchmaking process, where people can view available pets for adoption on its website and talk to a staff member on the phone before adopting one.
The Arizona Humane Society also added curbside adoption appointments since the pandemic began, where future pet owners can fill out paperwork at home, talk to an adoption matchmaker about available animals on the phone and then pick up their new pet and complete payments from their vehicles.
People who adopt animals can return them to the Arizona Humane Society if it does not work out. However, the number of adopted animals who have been returned since the pandemic started also has decreased.
The Arizona Humane Society hired a Resource Navigator after the pandemic began. With that addition, as well as the organization’s efforts to keep pets in homes with their owners by providing resources, extending veterinary clinic hours and adding virtual pet behavior classes, there has been a decrease in the number of pets that came to the organization’s shelter during the pandemic.
Hansen recommends people who are considering adopting a pet think about the time demand it will require, figure out the medications the animal will need and consider if they will be able to bring their pet to work or will keep them at home.
Almost There: A Mom + Pups Rescue, a North Central non-profit organization, also has seen people respond quickly to requests for fostering puppies and dogs since the pandemic started, said Annie Verderame, director of communications for the organization. The staff asked for the community to help care for about 50 animals when the healthcare crisis hit as it had to close down.
“It was absolutely incredible,” Verderame said. “Within less than two weeks, all animals were in foster homes. One of the biggest blessings is a lot of fosters ended up adopting the babies.”
Almost There: A Mom + Pups Rescue accepts only pregnant and nursing mother dogs and their puppies. Since reopening in its new headquarters on east Indian School Road in December, there have been 45 adoptions, as of press time.
Maricopa County Animal Care & Control saw 9,099 pets adopted to new homes last year, down from 14,215 in 2019. Fewer pets are being surrendered to the county since the pandemic began. The county department closed one of its shelters when the pandemic started and centralized these operations to the West Valley, said Monica Gery, communications officer for Maricopa County Animal Care & Control.
The county department has partnered with other animal welfare organizations to create a website, azpetproject.org, to help people struggling with homelessness keep their pets.
Raquel Huerta, who co-owns Fetch Natural Pet Market with her husband, Aaron Oaks, also recently adopted a dog. She said since she and Oaks took ownership of the business on 16th Street in September “we’ve just had an influx of customers being brand new pet owners” come to the store.
To learn more about Fetch, visit www.fetchaz.com.