While most shelters are closed to visitors to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, animal rescue organizations are reporting a significant uptick in people interested in adopting a pet.
Hillary Rosen, founder and president of A Purposeful Rescue in Los Angeles, says the sudden demand for pets has overwhelmed the nonprofit, which rescues and houses dogs from shelters. A Purposeful Rescue took down its online foster application because her team of volunteers couldn’t handle the influx of requests.
The nonprofit rescues older dogs and dogs with medical needs. Shelters call about specific dogs, but Rosen says social distancing altered the process of picking them up.
After some pre-pickup organization, shelters bring the dog outside to a volunteer wearing gloves and a mask, she says.
“We still have to go out and help these animals while we're all at home,” she says. “So we're just trying to find this weird balance.”
A Purposeful Rescue still facilitated outdoor in-person meet and greets within social distancing guidelines two to three weeks ago, she says, but has since decided to hold off for now.
Most folks adopting have wanted a dog for some time and are making a thoughtful choice, she says. She adds many people who would look for a dog in the summer when they’re home more are adopting a little early.
“I hope we're doing a good job ensuring that these animals are going to be in homes forever,” she says. “But I think, for the most part, we're adopting the folks who are very serious.”
With new pet owners home all the time, the nonprofit has some behavioral concerns for the dogs.
When people adopt, many folks plan to stay home with their new dog all the time. But that’s not what’s best for the dog, Rosen says.
“Everyone is home right now and that's not normal,” she says. “I feel like when this is all over, we're gonna have a lot of dogs with separation anxiety.”
Rosen encourages pet owners stuck at home to create a sense of distance and independence with their animals. She recommends using a crate and refraining from giving pets too much attention to prepare them for when their owners return to normal routines.
“If you're just giving so much love and affection to a dog all day, that's creating some anxiety,” she says. “I would encourage everyone to just step back from that a little bit.”
With many unknowns and unanswered questions on the horizon, Rosen says she’s concerned about what will happen when shelters reopen and whether people will continue donating to the nonprofit.
“In the back of my head, I want to be thoughtful because I don't know what the future looks like,” she says. “We're just trying to be super, super thoughtful through this process for the animals and for the humans.”
This segment aired on April 9, 2020.