For New Yorkers who have made a cliche out of lamenting that they don’t have time to take care of a dog, recent isolation guidelines have had at least one upside: dog time.
Demand for dogs right now is “totally unprecedented,” said Sarah Brasky, the founder and executive director of Foster Dogs Inc., a New York-based nonprofit that connects animal rescue organizations with adopters and fosters.
Foster Dogs has seen a more than 1,000% increase in foster applications this month in the New York area — the epicenter of the US outbreak — compared with the same month in 2019, Brasky said. Muddy Paws Rescue, a New York nonprofit, normally sees about 100 foster applications a month, but in just the past two weeks it’s received close to 1,000, said Anna Lai, the organization’s marketing director
“Everybody who has ever wanted to foster or adopt is suddenly much more available,” Brasky said.
New Yorkers — as well as roughly half of all US residents — have been urged to work from home, avoid bars, restaurants or any large gatherings, and exercise social distancing. Walking the dog outside while keeping your distance from others, however, is still considered safe.
While foster and adoption interest is booming, many New York area rescues groups are reducing their intake of animals and sharply limiting — if not fully suspending — adoptions as the number of coronavirus cases grow.
There are still plenty of dogs who need homes, but the restrictions on travel and efforts to limit human contact mean fewer are able to be rescued, transported and matched with people, said Krista MacDonald, director of rescue programs at Badass Brooklyn Animal Rescue
“I cannot speak for every shelter but I do know a number of shelters around the United States are putting a hold on their intake” and bringing in only urgent cases of animals that are injured or sick, MacDonald said.
Bracing for the worst
It isn’t just the isolation of emotionally needy city dwellers driving the adoption boom.
Across the country, shelters and rescue groups have seen the rise of the coronavirus as a signal to mobilize and clear out kennels to make space for what’s expected next: a wave of pet surrenders from people who are sick or financially unable to care for their animals.
“Everyone in animal welfare is bracing themselves,” said Anna Lai, marketing director for Muddy Paws.
As unemployment spikes and more people fall ill, shelters say, it’s only a matter of time before people begin surrendering their pets.
“Financial hardship, illness, death, life stress, and other factors will cause for intake numbers to rise in ways we’ve possibly never seen in our lifetime,” Brasky said.