Shortly before the shelter-in-place, Jeanne Davis of Burlingame and her kids decided to add a new member to their family – a yellow Labrador puppy named Ace. The timing was perfect.
“I felt like if there’s a puppy it would keep the kids busy,” says Davis, who has two sons ages 8 and 11. “They have to feed him and walk him. It keeps our minds off of everything going on.”
Her sons love to play with the puppy in the backyard and he often rests at their feet while they do school work on their Chromebooks.
Training the puppy has also become an educational opportunity for the family, says Davis, adding that she’s found some good digital training shows for her kids to watch.
“It’s nice having a soft puppy at home,” says Davis’ son Jackson, 11. “Since you’re staying at home, you don’t have a lot of motivation. But having a puppy gives you a reason to get out.”
The Davis family is not alone in their desire to add a pet to their family during these stressful times. According to local animal shelters, there’s been a rise in the number of adoptions and foster families since the shelter-in-place. Most shelters are doing adoptions by appointment only, while some are only putting animals into foster care right now.
At the Peninsula Humane Society, adoption appointments are almost entirely booked, according to communication manager Buffy Martin Tarbox. “We’ve seen a big increase in the number of people adopting animals, and generally this is a slow season,” she says. “One of the great things is a lot of our long-time animals are being adopted.”
Often, the older animals and animals that aren’t as social remain in the shelter longer, but lately that hasn’t been the case, she says.
By the fourth week of the shelter-in-place, there were only 58 animals in the shelter, which is extremely low for this time of year. “I think people understand that animals reduce stress and loneliness,” she says. “I think a lot of people are pulling together and saying, how can I help my community?”
For a lot of people, this is a great time to bring home an animal because there is time to get the new pet acclimated to the home, says East Bay SPCA marketing manager Kelcy Spaete.
The East Bay SPCA’s website has virtual dog training courses, as well as activities for kids to do at home.
About a month into the shelter-in-place, the center had facilitated 24 virtual adoptions and had another 15 scheduled for the following week, Spaete said. During this time, 58 of its animals were in foster care.
This is how the adoption process at East Bay SPCA works: Applicants must fill out an application and staff members find good matches. They get to see photos of the animals and receive adoption counseling over the phone. If it seems like a good match, an appointment is set to meet the animal. Lately, Spaete says quite a few of the adoptions have been through foster families. This makes the process easier since the animal is already in their home.
She’s heard from several people who have adopted recently who said that having an animal during this hard time has helped a lot.
“The one that tugs at my heart strings is a woman who lived by herself and she suffers from anxiety,” Spaete says. “This puppy Chelsea really changed her life. Chelsea was really shy at first and now she’s blossomed. Both of them have helped each other.”
While now is a great time to adopt an animal, shelter officials also caution that you should make sure that when things return to normal, you’ll still be able to care for your pet.
At Peninsula Humane Society, Martin Tarbox says the application process usually helps people figure out if they have the appropriate time and resources. Also, many shelters like the Peninsula Humane Society, allow people to return animals if things don’t work out.
“We want them to have lasting loving families. We don’t want impulse adoptions,” Martin Tarbox says. “So far, the adoption updates have been very positive, especially for those who are working from home and have time to bond with the animal.”
If you’re not sure about adopting a pet providing a foster home is a good alternative, says Sunny McKay of El Cerrito.
Since she lost her dog in January, she’s been a regular foster parent. Her kids are getting close to graduating from high school, so she and her husband decided not to adopt another dog because they may start traveling more. Fostering has been a good alternative. McKay cares for dogs while they’re waiting to be adopted and helps train them for their new homes.
During the shelter-in-place, she has been caring for a 1-year-old cattle mix named Ziggy from Rocket Dog Rescue in Oakland.
She does worry that some people may not be thinking about life after quarantine when they adopt right now.
“You really have to think long-term. When you go back to work and school, you have to make sure it’s going to work for you,” McKay says.
Online Pet Training and Resources
Here are some local shelters offering online pet training resources.
East Bay SPCA Behavior & Training Resources. Online courses taught via Zoom. Participants can submit videos of in-home training sessions for feedback.
East Bay SPCA Humane Education Resources. Activities, worksheets and other resources to teach children about humane values, animal welfare and pet care from home.
Peninsula Humane Society & SPCA. Online training courses.
San Francisco SPCA. Behavior and training resources.
Pet Adoption During the Quarantine