“Love in the Time of COVID-19”

by Berit Mason | June 1, 2020 | Ask Roxie

Pandemic silver lining, is an increase in pet adoption

“Love in the Time of Cholera” is a famous novel. As the title suggests, love can blossom, even in bad times. Right now, there is a lot of “puppy love” going around. San Antonio strays, generally an unlucky group, are catching a much needed break, during this pandemic.

“I’ve seen an increase in inquires about adopting dogs,” reports Sierra’s K9 Rescue. “And it absolutely coincides with the COVID-19 situation.”

Sierra rescuers scoop up stranded pups from our roadsides, finding them forever homes.

“Although, many rescue organizations have also seen an increase in their adoption numbers, we screen adopters carefully, to ensure that we do not end up with dogs being returned after COVID-19, or worse, dumped on the streets, again,” says Juan Vasquez with Responsible Pet Owners Alliance.

“We’ve adopted out puppies to families that never wanted a puppy before, because there was no time to potty train. Since they’re at home, they have time to potty train.” Vasquez also operates VUN-VEQ Rescue, an “all species” rescue, adopting out rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, cats and dogs. “Since the stay at home order came into place, we have had an increase of request for small animals. Parents let their children have a guinea pig, hamster or bunny, so they can learn responsibility in caring for pets.

San Antonio Pets Alive! has 710 animals now in foster care, a 22% increase, since last year. Olivia Schneider says it is an amazing turn of events. “Comparing adoptions from January – April 2019, 2020 shows a 37.7% increase, in adoptions.” That is a lot!

SAPA also added a “Cuddle Shuttle Program,” pairing fosters and volunteers, the volunteers delivering the animals, and their food to the foster’s doorstep, to avoid contact.

Executive Director of the Animal Defense League of Texas – San Antonio Joel McLellan reports not one case of COVID-19, among their staff. “On March 13th, we enacted our ADL shelter preparedness plan, to continue our operations, in some capacity.”

They’ve been following City of San Antonio pandemic guidelines, to a T.

“We increased reserves of things such as latex gloves, syringes, and bolstered our inventory for a three months supply,” says McLellan, who has worked in large volume food retail management. “We did not access those reserves, and we continued ordering, in anticipation of a supply chain disruption.”

While we ran around looking for toilet paper, they had tons of paper towels, vital to operations their size. Being prepared means that the shelter has been able to do its job: offer healthy pets to those who want them. “We also suspended foot traffic, but you can view the animals online. Then, you can make an online appointment, to come see an animal at our campus.”

“We know that the community is moving towards e-commerce.”

Pets are inputted into their database, which is linked to their website. Website traffic has doubled.

“We take two appointments an hour,” he says. “We have a 12-acre open-air campus.” New owners and pups meet in the great, safe, outdoors. Such an overabundance of caution means a 20% increase in adoptions at the Animal Defense League, in March and April. Not one worker, has been let go. But why else, aside from being at home, are more people becoming pet parents?

McLellan and pet market analysts agree: in this time of emotional need, with self-isolation and social distancing, animals fill a void.

“In time of crisis, people ask: who is caring for the animals? Who is taking care of the animals, in all of this uncertainty? And people found the need for something positive in their life,” he says.

But if adoption rates are up, dollars are down, as fundraisers go dark. “We had to postpone our annual gala, at the end of March.” So, they collected a few bucks, from a vast pool of supporters. ADL also helps other shelters, taking in their overflow, getting those pets adopted. The shelter’s pandemic preparedness plan is available to all shelters, to help them manage, in this “Love in the Time of COVID-19.”

By Berit Mason

Berit Mason has been a reporter – anchor for WOAI 1200 AM Radio, a contributor to the San Antonio Business Journal, a writer for SA Scene magazine, and for “San Antonio Woman”. She has been writing the “Ask Roxie” column since 2016. Berit also worked in T.V., as a reporter – anchor in West Texas and in Waco, where she was a RIAS Berlin Commission German – American Exchange Journalist, starting her career interning with CNN Washington. She is a frequent traveler to Scandinavia, where her mother was from. Her father was an author of military aviation history. Berit loves animals, and was raised in a family who preferred to acquire the family dog, from among the many homeless pups roaming San Antonio streets.
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