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Virginians Adopting, Fostering More Pets During Coronavirus

Girl hosing off dogs
Though shelters have asked volunteers to stay at home, they say Virginians have stepped up to foster and adopt dogs and cats at higher-than-usual rates. (Photo: Van Vox)

The coronavirus has disrupted commerce nationwide, but at least in Virginia, many animal shelters have managed to continue finding homes for pets.

Richmond SPCA has made a lot of changes over the last couple of weeks. Like many other shelters in Virginia, they’ve asked volunteers to stay home. Their veterinary hospital is only seeing animals for urgent needs. And they’re doing adoptions by appointment only to adhere to social distancing.

Tabitha Treloar, a spokesperson for Richmond SPCA, said adoption counseling and screening that used to take place in person is all happening over the phone. She says they’ve still done 107 adoptions since March 17. Nearly 300 people have also signed an on-call pledge to foster animals in the case of an emergency. It’s the first time the shelter has put out such a request.

“We’re really glad to see that by not being open to the public, it has not harmed our ability to find permanent homes for pets who need them,” Treloar said.

Gov. Ralph Northam’s stay-at-home order does not mention animal shelters. But officials at several shelters say they’ve interpreted the order, which says people can leave home to care for pets, to mean people can still adopt pets. The governor’s office didn’t respond to a request for clarification.

Van Vox, of  Petersburg, decided to foster for the first time when she heard shelters might need some extra help during the state of emergency. Within a week of picking up Mike, a pitbull-mix from a shelter in Prince George County, Vox decided to keep him.

“I initially just thought that maybe if we got a dog that had some behavioral issues I would have enough time since I’m always home now to actually work with the dog. You know, rehabilitate a little bit,” Vox said. “But that is not what happened.”

But there are some concerns about the recent uptick in adoptions and fosters.

Cat Adoption and Rescue Efforts is a non-profit in Henrico County focused on rescuing cats and kittens. C.A.R.E President Amy Tankoos said she’s gotten a lot of new applications from people applying to foster cats because they’re stuck at home. 

“Which is great,” Tankoos said. “We love having people volunteer to foster, but we have to make it clear that if they have to go back to work and can’t foster anymore, we may not be able to take the cat because we may not have another foster for it.”

Tankoos also warned that many veterinarians have restricted their office hours and are only seeing pets for emergencies, not for post-adoption medical exams and vaccinations. So, she said, people should consider not adopting a pet that hasn’t already had a check-up or shots. 

Whittney Evans is VPM News’ features editor.
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