Companionship is major motivation
Many people who are housebound by coronavirus restrictions are looking to adopt pets, and organizations that help animals and their owners need support.
A pandemic quarantine may be the best time to adopt a pet for both the animal and the family. Pets can reduce stress and feelings of loneliness — a welcome solution for people isolated from normal day-to-day interactions. Pets provide companionship and a reason to get outside and exercise.
Ania (who asked that her last name be withheld) had never owned a dog, although she considered pet adoption in recent years. Now seemed like the ideal time to adopt. She knew a friend whose dog had puppies, and the kids are home from school. The family adopted Charlie, a Lab/pointer mix. The experience has been rewarding.
“It gets the kids out of their rooms, and on lots of walks,” Ania said. She’s teaching the puppy basic training and to “not chase chickens.”
Mary Morgan and Phil Milam adopted Murphy, an Australian Shepherd. According to Morgan, Murphy “has been a source of great entertainment!” The couple looked at possible dogs for a few months. They decided to go look at Murphy and his littermates.
“No one ever just ‘looks’ at puppies,” Morgan said. “Having a puppy has been a wonderful distraction from the state of our world, and shelter in place means he gets lots of time and attention.”
For Rose Weagant, stay-at-home timing was a perfect opportunity to house train a dog. She had been perusing Craigslist for months, and noticed since the shutdown that more people were in search of animals. “We all need companions,” Weagant said. “If we can’t be around humanity, at least we can develop our own humanity.” For Weagant, adopting Polly was “an instant reward, the whole house is alive.”
The Wenatchee Valley Humane Society (WVHS) reacted quickly to initial virus precautions to keep staff and animals safe. Executive Director Dawn Davies said in an email that the shelter is currently closed, and 80% of the shelter animals are currently in foster homes to help reduce staff hours and stagger shifts to minimize exposure. The remainder of the animals were not suitable for foster care due to behavior or medical treatment.
“Clearing the shelter ensured that we would have the capacity to care for pets if their owners became ill or needed to be hospitalized,” Davies said — echoing a nationwide concern.
In addition to planning for pets orphaned by the virus, WVHS is also preparing to help pet owners with a reduced income continue to provide for their pets. “Thanks to many donors and the Community Foundation of NCW, our pantry is stocked at the moment,” she said.
Another impact WVHS is bracing for is a rise in unwanted litters. Spay and neuter surgeries are considered to be elective and are currently not allowed.
“The timing couldn’t be worse at the beginning of kitten season …when the order is lifted, we will be limited by exhausted supplies of PPE [personal protection equipment] and medication which are all on indefinite backorder,” said Davies.
Tamra Hively, executive director of Okanogan Regional Humane (ORH), formerly known as OK-SNIP, sees the same challenges. “Our waiting list for spay and neuter is growing,” Hively said. Her advice to pet owners is to keep unfixed animals inside until the order is lifted and animals can be fixed.
ORH, based in Omak, provides assistance for pet owners to keep their pets when times are tough. Veterinary care and supplies are not always affordable or accessible for every pet owner. For those with a need, ORH provides food, veterinary care, spay and neuter, vaccines, and microchip clinics.
In addition, ORH provides resources such as training and basic pet equipment. ORH may be best known for its work with “community cat colonies” throughout the county. The organization runs a Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) program to keep cat colony populations under control. All cats in a community (feral) colony are trapped and receive health checks by a veterinarian. Cats receive vaccinations, medical care if needed, and are spayed or neutered. The friendly cats are adopted into qualified homes, while the other community cats are returned to the colony where volunteers keep them fed and cared for.
Currently, ORH works with volunteers and Okan-Dogs, based in Cashmere, to foster stray and abandoned dogs in volunteer’s homes until Okan-Dogs is available to pick up dogs.
ORH is working to expand its services with the construction of a larger, new building in Omak. Currently, ORH depends on area clinics for animal care. The new building will house a clinic, allowing ORH to provide three times the number of spay and neuter services every year. To date, ORH can only offer 300 spay and neuter procedures a year through participating vet clinics.
With its own clinic and vet, ORH projects it can provide over 1,000 spay and neuter procedures a year. “In addition,” Hively said, “other programs will grow: Trap-Neuter-Return, vaccination clinics, Mom and Dad’s Last Litter, and educational resources.”
The larger space will allow ORH to provide short-term overnight holding for Okan-Dogs. Stray dogs would be scanned for a microchip and all efforts would be made to contact the owner for return.
Construction on the new building is on hold until health restrictions are lifted. Also impacted is ORH’s largest annual fundraiser, the “Whiskers and Wishes Auction.” The event is canceled this year. Instead, ORH is throwing a “Sit and Stay Soiree.”
With no raffle tickets, no dinner tickets, no auction, and no overhead costs associated with the fundraiser, all of the money raised will go directly to help animals. Donations may be sent by mail to Okanogan Regional Humane, P.O. Box 3221, Omak, WA 98841, or online at http://www.ok-humane.org, or through Facebook at @oksnip. All donations are tax-deductible.