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Finding a home: Local agency has shortage of dogs

Central Pennsylvania Humane Society volunteer Bev Billings of Portage plays with Julius. Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski

Local humane society officials say they have not seen an increase in pet adoptions during the COVID-19 pandemic, despite shelter and humane groups nationwide seeing their numbers double.

But that might be in part to a shortage of dogs.

“People are home more to spend time with their current pets, so we are not experiencing the demand for surrenders of animals that we have in the past,” said Theresa Shirley, Central Pennsylvania Humane Society shelter manager.

Shirley said the East Pleasant Valley Boulevard shelter has been very low on dog numbers since the beginning of the pandemic.

From Jan. 3, 2020, to Jan. 11, 2021, the shelter adopted out 193 dogs compared to the 259 from March 1, 2019, to Jan. 11, 2020.

From Jan. 3, 2020, to Jan. 11, 2021, the shelter adopted out 547 cats compared to 606 from March 1, 2019, to Jan. 11, 2020.

“The numbers do not include cats or dogs that were transferred to other facilities, so we are actually down on prior years in the number of animals that have entered our shelter and the number of adoptions,” Shirley said. “We have run short of dogs and have not had numbers to meet the demand of people wanting to offer a dog a home.”

Fostering increases

Meanwhile, officials at Centre County PAWS have seen an increase in the number of people interested in both fostering and adopting.

“This is because people are at home more than they ever have been in the past. It’s been a great time to help out with a litter of kittens or an adult cat or dog who needs some assistance in finding a forever home,” said Executive Director Lisa Bahr.

PAWS has seen a 15% increase in foster homes overall in the past year.

“We also saw an increase in total cat adoptions. Our dog adoptions did not increase, however, and we are hoping that even more fosters for adult dogs will come forward in 2021,” Bahr said.

Centre County PAWS has been able to meet local needs for surrender of animals.

“In order to continue to meet the demand for adopters, we happily work with other rescues to transfer in animals. It is a win-win, because it allows Centre County area adopters “access” to animals they may otherwise not have been able to adopt. Additionally, it allows the shelters those animals came from to refill the empty cages with other animals in need,” Bahr said.

Appointments needed

The pandemic has caused animal organizations to alter the way they do business.

“We have been working by appointment only. Applications must be submitted prior. We take multiple applications and then choose one to two applicants to then come in and meet with the animal they wish to adopt. If that visit goes well, we can then move ahead with an adoption,” Shirley said.

The humane society is not allowing access to the building unless an appointment has been scheduled and staff are also performing temperature checks, enforcing a mask policy and hand sanitizing processes, Shirley said.

PAWS is offering a mix of in-person and virtual visits.

“We require anyone who will enter our building to first have submitted an application and been approved to adopt. We share, as available, videos and pictures of cats or dogs that may suit their lifestyle. Once those choices are narrowed down, we’ll do in-person visits and, if all works out, an adoption,” Bahr said.

Before someone adopts a pet they should think of the long term.

“What is your plan for the dog once you go back to work, or find another job? What happens if your financial situation changes due to the pandemic? Do you have the funds to cover unplanned medical expenses? A dog can live for 8-15 years, a cat can live for 12-18 years, are you fully committed to keep this animal for their full life?” Shirley said. “While it can be rewarding to offer an animal a home and right now you have the time to spend with that animal, what could or would happen if your personal situation changed?”

Shirley stressed that the plan to take an animal at any time has to be a long term commitment.

“The last thing an animal needs is to have a home for a few months, to then be returned to the shelter because the pandemic is under control and we all return to normality,” she said.

Adoptions go quickly

Bahr said for many people, the past year has been a great time to adopt.

“We have plenty of animals for you to choose from, though I admit we’re adopting them out rather quickly. If you’re interested in adopting, watch our social media and our website for information. Reach out if you’re interested and we’re happy to help you,” Bahr said.

Fostering animals is also a good idea.

“We have basically an unlimited number of animals we can help, as long as we have safe environments and foster homes for them to go to. Fosters are not financially responsible for the animals they care for and it is a very generous way to truly save lives,” Bahr said.

Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.

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