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Coronavirus can't stop pet lovers as people turn to fostering animals

Lucas Manfredi

Forget toilet paper, milk and hand sanitizer. In order to cope with the self-isolation caused by the coronavirus, people are stocking up on the real essentials: pets.

Across the country, shelters are being forced to close due to the coronavirus. As a result, there is an increased need to foster all kinds of animals, and Americans are stepping up to meet the demand.

"The animal population at all of our municipal shelters and the Humane Society are at all-time lows because this community has said, ‘I’m at home, I have capacity to help. Who do I need to foster?' ”, Memphis Animal Services Director Alexis Pugh told the Daily Memphian.

On Monday, the American Society for te Prevention of Cruelty to Animals announced that it would launch a $2 million dollar emergency relief fund to fund "essential lifesaving services such as basic operations, safety net, adoptions and foster programs, and veterinary services" in order to help shelters affected by the crisis.

According to the ASPCA, approximately 6.5 million companion animals enter U.S. animal shelters nationwide every year. Only 3.2 million shelter animals are adopted each year.

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In a Facebook post on Monday, Lake Humane Society said that their shelter in Ohio was completely empty thanks to prospective foster parents.

"Today was our final day of adoptions due to the stay at home order that goes into effect at midnight. We hoped to "go out with a bang" (while practicing social distancing and cleaning, of course) -- and we did just that thanks to all of our wonderful adopters who opened their homes and hearts to our shelter pets in need." the shelter wrote. "These pets are now in cozy, loving, safe forever homes where they can hunker down with their new family, instead of here at the shelter. We are just so grateful."

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Animal Care Centers of NYC — an open-intake shelter that received about 21,000 animals last year — put out a similar call on social media last week.

Since then, they’ve reportedly received nearly 5,000 applications from prospective foster parents.

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Wisconsin Humane Society put out a similar post on March 15 looking for foster parents and ended up getting a bigger response than expected.

"Like many others, we're in a tough situation right now with staff and volunteer shortages due to the coronavirus (COVID19) pandemic. And we provide a critical service to animals that must continue." the company said in a Facebook post. "We have more than 250 animals, especially cats, in our shelters today (WHS operates five shelters in Milwaukee, Saukville, Racine, Green Bay, and Door County). In order to ensure that we have enough staff and volunteers to care for the animals, we need your help."

Four days later, the shelter put out an update that they had received 400 applications and had to ask people to stop applying.

"We are truly overcome with gratitude for the massive response to our request for foster parents!! We received more than *400* new applications in the last few days - truly incredible!!!", the shelter wrote. "At this point, we do need to stop accepting new applications so we can ensure our small but mighty team of Foster staff is able to process all the new applications we’ve received so far, get everyone lined up with their placements, and get as many animals out the door as possible. We’ll be sure to let you know if/when our needs change! Thank you, thank you, thank you!"

It isn't just dogs and cats that are being adopted either. In California, Kern County Animal Shelter put out a post on March 17 that it was in need of fosters for 200 to 300 animals. Two days later, 104 animals were already fostered, including a pig, and the number continues to grow.

Adopting shelter animals not only helps out local shelters during the pandemic, but it can also help your mental health while in isolation.

In a 2016 survey of pet owners by the Human Animal Bond Research Institute, 74 percent of pet owners reported mental health improvements from pet ownership, and 75 percent of pet owners reported a friend’s or family member’s mental health has improved because of the pets in their lives.

While some people interested in adopting might be worried about the potential spread of coronavirus to pets, both the World Health Organization and Hong Kong’s Agriculture Fisheries and Conservation Department agree that there is no solid evidence that proves pets can contract the virus. The AFCD, however, “strongly advises” that pets of infected owners be quarantined for 14 days to be on the safe side since the virus can live on surfaces and objects for extended periods.

If interested in adopting a shelter animal, you can contact your local shelter or check out their social media to find out how you can help.

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