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Animal Adoptions In Flux During Pandemic

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Courtesy: Huntington Cabell-Wayne Animal Shelter
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The Huntington Cabell-Wayne Animal Shelter is located on James River Road in Huntington, W.Va.

With all the time spent at home, you may be wondering if this is a good time to adopt a new pet. The answer is, it depends. It may actually be difficult to adopt at the moment. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many shelters have closed their doors and stopped in-person adoption. 

Adoptions across the country have decreased, according to Pet Point, an online resource for animal shelters. More people are stepping up to foster animals, electing to take them home for short periods without actually committing to adoption. 

The future for many animal rescue charities and nonprofits is precarious. They face funding shortages due to the economic slowdown of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

At the Huntington Cabell-Wayne Animal Control Shelter, 10 to 15 dogs are placed in outdoor kennels that are about 25 feet wide and 10 feet deep. Each kennel has a dog house, water and even a ceiling fan. Visitors can walk up and see which ones are available for adoption.

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Credit Kyle Vass / For WVPB
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For WVPB
Bellomy, a two year old brindle-mix, stands on his kennel and barks in Huntington, WV.

The shelter director, Courtney Cross, said the number of dogs at her shelter currently is exceptionally low. 

“We're holding pretty steady around 20 dogs,” she said. Under normal circumstances they have between 85 and 100 dogs. 

Cross said getting the number of animals at her shelter down is important for two reasons: First, it keeps low the number of volunteers and staff who have to come to work during the pandemic.

Second, shelters like hers rely on animal rescue organizations, third-party nonprofits that take animals from shelters and put them into homes. If these animal rescue organizations are unable to secure funding in the future due to the recent economic downturn, her shelter will be overrun with animals.

“We send a lot of our animals to rescue organizations. As these states shut down, if the rescues weren’t able to do adoption events, then what would happen?” she asked. 

Stephanie Howell, director of Little Victories in Ona, West Virginia, an animal rescue organization, said her organization is still receiving a high number of requests for people wanting to surrender their pets.  

“Typically, in a given day, we could have anywhere from seven to 15 requests. Some days, we get 25 if we've got two litters of kittens, or something like that. But, there's always a waitlist here,” she said. 

On a recent visit, she pointed out the dog “cottages,” with doors and windows and doggie doors. 

“The porches are set and so when it's raining, they can sit outside and be under shelter, which is nice.”

She pointed out the “cat sanctuary,” a grey double-wide trailer. 

“Literally the cats just roam free in there. We have 35 cats. And what you saw out there is in the sanctuary, there are 22 dogs out there.”

Despite the fact that her organization is usually full, Howell said she doesn’t flatout reject people. When she can’t accept their pets, she offers advice on how to deal with common problems like how to potty train a puppy. Her organization has even helped out with vet bills. 

But her overhead is expensive, too.

“It costs us $1,100 a day. I'm responsible for raising about $400,000 a year and we do not get any city, national or state level funding. So, it's all through grants that we can apply for, donations, fundraising events and things like that. I don't think people typically realize how much it costs to run this place,” Howell said. 

She said her organization has made it through the first quarter of the year, but the economic downturn has her concerned about future funding.

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Credit Courtesy Amanda Kinder
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Lucy, an 11 week old Pyrenees-mix relaxes at home with the Kinder family in Huntington, W.Va.

Huntington, W.Va. resident Amanda Kinder and her family adopted a dog, a pyrenees they named Lucy, three weeks ago.   

“She’s tiny and white and cream colored and she’s got white on her little socks and on her face,” she said. “They actually call the coloring on her face badger. It’s kind of similar to a racoon mask.”

Kinder said her kids had been asking for a dog for years. But even with four people at the house, Kinder said taking care of an 11-week-old puppy isn't all cuddles and playtime.

“Definitely her getting up in the middle of the night is kind of like a toddler. She doesn’t sleep entirely through the night yet, so we’re working on that,” Kinder said. 

Kinder warned against adopting a pet on whim and said planning was essential in preparing their home for Lucy.

Pets also require lots of time. While families are staying at home right now, this won’t last forever.

“Right now she's got unending amounts of attention and people are playing with her and if she barks, somebody in the house will definitely come to her and see what she needs or play with her or take her outside. So, I think when all of this does go kind of back to normal, I'm sure it'll be an adjustment for her just like everybody else,” Kinder said. 

When the stay at home order is finally lifted, and people go back to school and work, what sort of effect will that have on these newly adopted pets? 

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals issued a statement that explained that new pets “may be left confused and potentially lonely when family members start spending less time at home” and that pet owners should start slowly acclimating animals to being left alone so they aren’t caught off guard when we go back to work. 


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