Amid stay-home orders, pet adoptions increase

Photos by Marlena Sloss/The Herald
Amy White of Bowling Green, Kentucky, greets Sophie the dog while Amy's husband, Leroy, greets Sophie's brother, Jack, as the potential family meets for the first time before the dogs' adoption at the Dubois County Humane Society in Jasper on Friday.

By LEANN BURKE
lburke@dhcerald.com

When Amy White of Bowling Green, Kentucky saw Sohpie and Jack — two dogs at the Dubois County Humane Society — on PetFinder.com, she thought either of them would make a great addition to her home.

When she called DCHS to inquire about the dogs, she found out that they were a bonded pair, which meant they would have to be adopted together. That was OK with White, so she and her husband, Leroy, got in their car and made the two-hour drive to Jasper on Friday. When they arrived at DCHS, they found the pups outside in a play yard waiting to meet them. As soon as Amy looked into their eyes, she knew they were the ones.

“You look into their eyes, and you can see their soul,” she said. “That’s how you know.”

The Whites took the two pups home that day, completed the adoption process by phone, and made Sophie and Jack two of the latest adoptions in what has been a banner year for DCHS in spite of COVID-19 and social distancing.

Leroy White of Bowling Green, Kentucky, greets his newly-adopted dog, Jack, at the Dubois County Humane Society in Jasper on Friday.

“This year so far has been, I think, the best year in the history of the shelter,” said Janie Farr, adoption coordinator at DCHS.

By this time last year, the shelter had adopted out 113 pets. This year, they’ve adopted out 161.

Although the shelter’s staff is not meeting face-to-face with any adopters due to social distancing, they do talk to them on the phone, and adoption applications include a place for hopeful new pet owners to explain why they want to adopt the pet. Quite a few times, Farr said, the answer has been stay-at-home orders brought on by COVID-19.

“They say it’s a good time because they’re home and can spend time training and bonding,” Farr said. “Some people have said it’s because they’re alone.”

For the Whites, now was a good time because they have time to train Jack and Sophie and to get to know them. It’s only been a few days, but Amy said she’s already seen that Sophie is protective of Jack. When the pair met the neighbor dog through a fence, Amy said, Sophie got in between the new dog and Jack and showed some aggression.

“We’re going to work on that,” Amy said.

Amy is confident that Sohpie’s behavior is nothing training can’t remedy, and she’s excited to get that going. The Whites are also looking forward to when the stay-at-home orders are lifted, and they can take their new pups camping.

Back at DCHS, it’s business as usual — minus the face-to-face interaction — and more adoptions are planned for this week, Farr said. The biggest difference the shelter has seen since the pandemic began has been a drop in donations. That’s a concern, Farr said, because the nonprofit relies on donations to operate. The adoption fees don’t even cover the total cost for vet care each animal gets upon intake — which includes a checkup, vaccines, and a spay or neuter surgery — so without donations, the shelter can’t operate.

Just like DCHS, local veterinary offices are also adjusting their operations to observe social distancing. Most have developed curbside service where staff members pick up pets at clients’ cars and take them into the facility, rather than having pet owners enter the offices. Many have also ramped up the already extensive sanitizing that happens after each patient.

At Animal Medical Center of Dubois County, owner and veterinarian Charles Johnson said his staff wears gloves and masks when they visit clients’ cars to pick up pets or drop of medications, and the staff has split into three teams, each headed by a veterinarian, to reduce the number of employees in the office at one time. When Johnson gets home at the end of they day, he puts his clothes straight into the washing machine and takes a shower to make sure he isn’t carrying the virus into his house.

Amy White of Bowling Green, Kentucky, and her husband, Leroy, leave the Dubois County Humane Society with their newly-adopted dogs, Jack and Sophie, in Jasper on Friday. Dubois County Humane Society Kennel Supervisor Linda Korn said there have been more adoptions this year compared to other years. “I think it’s because people are at home more and have more time,” Korn said.

Although current research hasn’t shown that companion animals show symptoms of COVID-19 or transmit the disease to humans, Johnson said the virus can live on pets’ fur if they have been around someone who is infected.

“We know the virus can live on surfaces, so we assume it can live on pet fur,” Johnson said.

That’s why local vets and the Indiana State Board of Animal Health recommend anyone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 or who is showing symptoms not cuddle, kiss or pet their pets. They should treat their pets as they would another human.

Much is still unknown about COVID-19 and the virus that causes it, Johnson said, but there’s no reason to abandon your pet.

“I am not worried about picking it up from an animal as long as I practice good hygiene,” Johnson said. “We’re concerned about our contact with people more than our contact with pets.”

Johnson advised people to listen to state and federal health officials who are studying the virus and to follow their guidelines, as well as those issued by the Dubois County Health Department.

More information on the Indiana State Board of Animal Health’s coronavirus guidelines for animal owners can be found here.




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