Pet adoptions on hold as animal shelters struggle to cope with COVID-19

CALGARY — Adoptions are on hold and pet shelters across the country are scrambling to make ends meet to take care of their animals during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Humane society offices in Calgary, Edmonton and Toronto are closed to the general public. Volunteers have been sent home and dogs and cats already at the shelters are going to have to wait before getting a chance to find a new home.

“We really just don’t want people coming in and out of the building, so unfortunately all of our animals … are staying put,” said Jessica Bohrson, communications manager for the Calgary Humane Society.

“It could potentially be months. It’s anyone’s guess right now.”

Bohrson said staff are making sure shelter animals are fed and looked after. If the pandemic with its restrictions lasts too long, they’ll have to find a new way to do adoptions.

“We would hope that we could figure out something that we could make work to get animals into their forever homes.”

The Toronto Humane Society has come up with an innovative way to continue adoptions.

“The Toronto Humane Society actually will be doing adoptions on a digital first-come, first-served basis,” said public relations specialist Hannah Sotropa.

“We’ll be conducting interviews via phone and scheduling meet-and-greets in person to the shelter in an effort to proceed with adoptions in some capacity.”

Sotropa said staff are making sure the animals get their “walks and loves” every day.

“Our animals obviously don’t know there’s a pandemic going on, nor do they understand what social distancing is.”

The Toronto Humane Society is still running a pet food bank.

“During these hardships, we can’t forget those tummies also need to be fed and so we will be handing out food, outside of our building, for … people who are on low income or feeling temporary hardship.”

The Edmonton Humane Society has turned to foster families to help reduce animal numbers at the shelter. CEO Liza Sunley said it’s important to make sure there is space for new animals if needed.

“We know that the need for the services we offer doesn’t go away just because we have these sorts of situations,” she said.

“We want to make sure that we don’t get to the point that we’re overcapacity. We want to make sure that we’re able to care for the animals we have with us right now.”

None of the shelters are allowing people to walk in and turn in a pet, but the animal groups are all willing to look at surrenders if it’s an emergency.

None of the humane societies receive government funding and rely on public donations.

The Vancouver Humane Society doesn’t take in animals. It depends on public support to provide services such as the McVitie Fund, which provides financial help for people whose pets need emergency veterinary care.

“If that funding drops off, it would mean someone who can’t afford veterinary care might be forced to surrender their pet to a shelter, which we obviously want to avoid, especially under these current circumstances where animal companions are especially important to people,” said Peter Fricker, projects and communications director.

“We’re hoping that people won’t forget about animal charities and will continue to donate as much as they can.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 19, 2020

— Follow @BillGraveland on Twitter

Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press

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