Despite soaring adoption rates, students see past challenges in pet fostering

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Pet adoptions have increased since the onset of COVID-19. (File photo by Caleb Pfeifer | Collegian Media Group)

With the onset of COVID-19, animal shelters were worried about the potential adverse effects it would have on them, but, in fact, animal adoptions increased. Students who foster through the Purple Power Animal Welfare Society saw this change firsthand.

Hannah Krieg, senior in animal sciences and industry, started fostering animals that she and her sister found on Craigslist about eight years ago. She now volunteers for Purple PAWS. Krieg moved back to Kansas City since classes have been online.

“I actively keep up with Unleashed Pet Rescue in Mission, Kansas, on Facebook,” Krieg said. “They were the rescue that originally educated me about how the virus could impact shelters.

Krieg said pet rescues were worried how COVID-19 would affect animal shelters at first.

“They feared that adoptions would severely decline and they would find themselves overrun with dogs and cats, but if anything, adoptions have skyrocketed,” Krieg said.

Hayley Spellman, senior in political science and communication studies, fosters through Purple PAWS. Since August 2018, Spellman has fostered six cats. She currently fosters a black kitten named Spencer.

“Our adoptions have increased and remained steady over the last few weeks,” Spellman said. “With everyone staying home so much, people are looking for animals to keep them company.”

While adoptions have seen improvement, Krieg said other aspects of pet adoption and fostering have been challenging. This includes rescuing animals.

“Due to social distancing restrictions, it is becoming increasingly harder for rescuers to pick up unwanted animals or save ones that are in danger,” Krieg said.

Nonessential pet visits and medical procedures such as spaying and neutering have been restricted. This delays the adoption process because animals can’t receive the care they need to qualify for adoption.

“The inability to spay [or] neuter and vaccinate animals also means that rescues that import animals from other states are unable to do so,” Krieg said.

Spellman said another issue they are facing is meet-and-greets. People typically want to meet the animal before they agree to foster or adopt it, but that is difficult due to COVID-19.

“Our adoptions are processed through PetSmart, and we have to be careful and mindful about who we interact with, wearing a facemask, and disinfecting our commonly used surfaces,” Spellman said.

Krieg is concerned that once COVID-19 passes and people can go back to work, the shelters will be overcrowded because people will not have the time they currently have to take care of their newly adopted pets.

“I’m worried that these animals will be sent back to shelters in masses, which will lead to overcrowding and to more pets being euthanized,” Krieg said.

Spellman is also unsure of the future of animal shelters and fostering.

“I am curious to see if adoptions remain steady, increase, or decline after the shutdown ends and people are out of their homes more,” Spellman said. “I hope that they will remain steady, but it is hard to really know in such volatile times.”

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