COVID-19 inspires need for animal companionship

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Crestwood Animal Shelter broke its record for cat adoptions in 2020 with 103 cats adopted.

Sarah Deneau, a pet foster parent and a supporter of Gateway Pet Guardians, volunteered at her first animal shelter six years ago. Her long walks with rescue dogs gave them the opportunity to see more than just three walls and a chain-link fence while also creating a bond with the volunteers.

Deneau saw the difference socialization made for the animals and believes that is why the COVID-19 pandemic is the perfect time to be a pet foster parent. There is no cost involved when becoming a pet foster parent.

Eleanor was a cat at Crestwood Animal Shelter on March 10. Photo by Cas Waigand.

“The only investment really is time and getting these dogs to their forever homes,” Deneau said.

Shelters like Stray Rescue of St. Louis and Crestwood Animal Shelter both noted a rise in pet adoption and fostering since last March. Initially, however, Crestwood Animal Shelter and Stray Rescue of St. Louis both said there were worries that people would have to surrender their pets because of financial instability during COVID-19.

“When the pandemic started, we were worried that families would have to choose between feeding their families and feeding their pets,” Stray Rescue of St. Louis director of marketing Natalie Thompson said.

In an effort to counteract the worries regarding pet surrendering and the effect it would have on the animal and human, Stray Rescue of St. Louis and Crestwood Animal Shelter opened pet food pantries. These pet food pantries are available to anyone.

Graphic by Christine Tannous.

Eric Goedereis, Webster University professor of psychology, said people tend to form identities around being a pet-owner and losing that stability during a pandemic could negatively impact the person and pet’s mental health. He sees real public health value in these pet food pantries because of this.

Deneau said she thinks pet food pantries will ultimately help in keeping people from having to give up their pets.

“At the beginning of the pandemic, I saw a lot of dogs being surrendered because people lost their jobs. They didn’t know where to turn, to get help,” Deneau said. “There’s even more and more resources coming out – pet food pantries.”

Despite concerns regarding pet surrendering due to pandemic-related financial struggles, Crestwood Animal Shelter has experienced the opposite. Lisa Gallina, Crestwood Animal Shelter president, said not a single pet that was adopted during the pandemic has been surrendered back to the shelter.

In fact, Crestwood Animal Shelter broke records with cat adoptions. Gallina said they got 103 cats adopted in 2020, more than any previous year.

Thompson said Stray Rescue of St. Louis has also seen foster parent applications “skyrocket” since last March. She said she wasn’t hearing the typical reasoning of not being home enough or vacations getting in the way of fostering an animal. “We received hundreds of foster applications and grew our foster program, which has allowed us to save even more animals than we already were,” Thompson said.

Graphic by Cas Waigand.

Deneau said fostering provides people with the “unconditional love” of an animal. She felt it is also a great way to teach responsibility to children. However, she added that it is important to teach children to respect animals before bringing a foster into the home.

Deneau also encouraged people to consider and understand their limits when fostering an animal.

“You have to know what you can do. I think trying to foster puppies now would probably drive my husband and I nuts, even though we’re both working from home,” Deneau said. “You just can’t watch them that close when you’re working.”

Deneau said she joked at the beginning of the pandemic that it was her goal to get as many shelter dogs adopted or in foster care as possible. Since then, she said she heard from at least 10 people who decided to adopt or foster because of her posts on Facebook.

“I was surprised at how many people have messaged me and said, ‘Hey, we got our dog or found out about a dog through this rescue because of your posts,’” Deneau said.

 

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