New York shelters are seeing animals being fostered and adopted in waves amid the COVID-19 outbreak, and they're hoping the pets will remain permanent members of their new families.
“Fostering saves lives. If I didn’t have these goofballs, I don’t know what I’d do. They contribute to my mood, health and are just a part of my life,” Puppy Kitty NYC volunteer Dilpreet Kainth said.
Puppy Kitty NYC is an all-volunteer rescue group based in Queens. Fostering for nearly three years, Kainth adopted one of her foster cats, Izzy, but she’s not the only one extending her family.
Across the boroughs, shelters have been experiencing an overwhelming interest in fostering and adopting – despite social distancing. In just two weeks of incredible support, Bideawee received upwards of 700 foster applications, president and CEO Leslie Granger said. Nearly all their rescues are currently in foster homes.
Granger said it was incredibly humbling that the shelter was a “recipient of compassion during such a difficult time." Whether or not the people that came to them were facing hardship, she said fostering was a symbiotic healing process.
Animal Haven president and executive director Tiffany Lacey agreed, saying the drive for animal companionship is a small silver lining amid the ongoing health crisis. Animal Haven’s adoption process, along with most shelters, has dwindled down to an appointment-only basis. “It’s taking longer to process potential adopters and to safely have them come to the shelter for a meeting,” Lacey said. Veterinarian clinics attached to these shelters have limited hours or only open to urgent cases. Shelters even commit to curbside visits if an animal is in desperate need.
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Still, with limited in-person interaction, these rescue groups manage the daily routine – pushing past the obstacles. In partnership with local organizations and veterinarians, Puppy Kitty NYC is launching a virtual adoption via Zoom, showcasing available pets. Bideawee is also scheduling video call meet-and-greets with matchmakers and foster families.
Compared to the same time last year, North Shore Animal League America, located in Port Washington, New York, has seen about 200 more adoptions during the COVID-19 pandemic.
With a current rate of 20 adoptions per week, clearing the shelter is important for handling incoming rescues. The Long Island location has even more space given a recent renovation, NSALA senior vice president of operations Joanne Yohannan said. “We’ve expanded 14,000 square feet, adding a cat adoption center upstairs,” she said. “No one could foresee this was going to happen, but it’s been a lifesaver, including a nursery which can house up to 100 animals.”
Following mild winter months, shelters anticipate a robust kitten season next month, particularly relying on foster homes for extra help. Like so many others, Yohannan is thankful for the incredible response, but uncertain how long the momentum will last. “With millions of people filing for unemployment, we’re hoping that the animals aren’t forgotten in all of the mayhem,” she added.
These nonprofits rely greatly on generous donations and fundraisers for financial assistance. While remaining steady for now, future funds could pose a potential setback. Granger mentions a slowdown in donations, creating a shortfall in the year’s budget. Bideawee had to cancel the annual Bideawee Ball, previously set for June 11. “It’s the largest fundraiser of the year and leaves us with a $700K revenue gap that we will need to fill from other sources,” Granger says.
At the end of the day, the driving force is saving these animals and ensuring that those either adopted or fostered are in a stable environment post-coronavirus outbreak. The average lifespan of a dog is twelve years, and indoor cats are known to live up to twenty or more. Having a pet is a constant commitment, so shelters want to make sure potential owners are ready for the long haul.
Fostering to adopt poses a way to solidify the choice and acts as a win-win situation. The foster parent is able to temporarily test out the lifestyle, while the rescue is freed from the shelter until placement.
For Puppy Kitty NYC president Meagan Licari it’s a message of opening your heart and your home. "Tell yourself you can be patient and save a life.”