'The perfect time to assimilate a new family member': Americans rush to foster pets amid coronavirus

As people in the U.S. shelter in place to contain the novel coronavirus, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) says it has seen a surge in interest among people who want to foster or adopt dogs and cats.

“We saw a tremendous spike in adoptions,” ASPCA president and CEO Matt Bershadker told Yahoo Finance’s YFi PM this week. “I believe that is about both the psychological benefits of sharing your home with a companion animal — the joy, the love, the companionship, but also the practical benefits. People have been contemplating bringing a dog or cat into their home. They figure ‘you know what? Now I'm home. It's the perfect time to assimilate a new family member into my life.’”

ASPCA
ASPCA

Since March 15, the ASPCA has received more than 600 complete online foster applications — that’s roughly a 200% increase in applications generally expected at this time of the year.

And Bershadker says the organization is innovating its screening process as the coronavirus is making meeting potential fosters more difficult.

“We've seen the animal welfare community lean into technology,” Bershadker explains. “The same types of things are being evaluated. But really interestingly, for example, we're using Uber [UBER] to put kittens into foster homes in LA. So we'll do the interviews over Skype [MSFT] or Zoom [ZM], and then we'll put the kitten in an Uber and the Uber will take the kitten right to the foster's home.”

ASPCA
Image courtesy of the ASPCA

The ASPCA is not the only animal welfare organization to note that the recent global pandemic has spurred more Americans to finally make the move to adopt or foster a pet. Wired reported on Friday that the Riverside County Animal Shelter has a “beautiful problem” — it has no animals available for adoption. Chicago Animal Care and Control also recently had no dogs up for adoption, according to Wired.

Humane Society President and CEO Kitty Block, meanwhile, told Wired that fostering rates had surged by 90% in some U.S. cities. “Folks who don’t have animals for one reasons or another, because of their work schedule or their travel schedule, that’s all changed right now,” Block said.

Still, the coronavirus pandemic does not bring only good news for pets. The ASPCA notes that disaster situations pose a higher risk that pet owners will not be able to provide adequate care for their animals. Thus, many animal welfare organizations are preparing for a potential influx of animals in need in the coming months.

To help financially-struggling pet owners, the ASPCA launched the COVID-19 Relief & Recovery Initiative, a $5 million response program that grants a minimum $2 million to animal welfare organizations in critical need of funds. It also provides pet food to pet owners through distribution centers in several cities.

“It's important for nonprofits to lead and that's precisely what the ASPCA has done,” Bershadker says. “And for regional food distribution points across the country, we are making free pet food very available to pet owners who have been impacted by COVID-19. The safest and best place for a pet is in its home.”

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