RI shelters seeing increased interest in pet adoptions amid COVID-19 crisis

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — With people across Rhode Island being urged to stay home amid the COVID-19 outbreak, some people may be feeling lonely and looking for a furry companion.

“I think once people started to realize they were going to be home for the long haul, the loneliness, the thought of being alone kind of sets in: ‘Wouldn’t it be a great time to foster a pet?'” said Joseph Warzycha, president of the R.I. Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RISPCA).

Lat month, in some of the country’s largest cities, the ASPCA reported a 70% increase in the number of pets going to foster homes. The two animal shelters Eyewitness News spoke with said there was a push to get animals in foster care or adopted.

“For the first time in my experience, we have way more people interested in animals than we have available animals,” Warzycha added. 

Warzycha said most shelters were in a rush to get animals out because it was unclear if they’d be forced to shut down.

“Within that week, either adopted out about every animal in the shelter or put them in the foster home,” he said of the animals in RISPCA’s care. “Between adoption and foster care, over 40 animals in a week.”

The RISPCA is now doing adoptions by appointment only.

“Everything is being done virtually, electronically and then there is some limited contact at the actual time of the adoption,” Warzycha said.

He also said they’re limiting intakes to emergency only, adding that he understands that sometimes an adoption isn’t a match.

“I’m not too worried about those few that may not work out,” he said. “If they don’t, we’re happy to take the animals back and find a more appropriate match.”

Warzycha said the bigger concern is the growing waiting list of animals.

“These people who are waiting to turn in their animals, we don’t want to keep them waiting any longer than we absolutely have to,” he said.

Over at the East Greenwich Animal Protection League, Executive Director Tammy Gallo said they too have seen an increase in interest.

“We get calls every day now where people are either looking to foster or adopt,” she said.

There’s no perfect adoption, according to Gallo, and they’re working hard to make sure pets stay in homes, even after people start going back to work.

“We approved our applications based on as if these families were working and what their work schedule was going to be when things came back, returned back to normal,” she explained. 

Since many people are home right now, Gallo said they’ll have the opportunity to spend time with their new pet, helping to acclimate them to their new environment, but she also stressed the importance of creating some type of routine for when workplaces start to reopen.

“So that when everyone does go back to work, these animals are not going to suffer separation anxiety, being used to having their people home 24 hours a day and then having them not home for however long,” she said.

Gallo suggested leaving for an hour or so to get the animals used to their owners not being home.

Warzycha said if people are unsure about adopting, fostering is a great alternative.

“We pay for everything,” he said. “We provide the food, we provide medical care, so it seems like a more appealing route for a lot of people.”

“That’s why the foster program works really well, because it’s almost like a trial basis,” Warzycha continued. “It works and if you decide you want to adopt — great.”

He noted that some of the people fostering animals have since adopted them.

Gallo said the EGAPL is working with shelters in the South to transport animals to Rhode Island.

“Once we do know there’s a light at the end of this tunnel, my southern rescue partners are all waiting in the wings for us to start rescuing again,” she added.

Both shelters are currently closed but continue to operate through their websites and social media pages.

Warzycha said the RISPCA has someone taking calls at (401) 438-8150, and you can learn more about the adoption process on the agency’s website.

Gallo said to check EGAPL’s Facebook page and website for updates on adoptable pets.

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