Now is the time to step up for vulnerable dogs, cats, and horses

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Now is the time to step up for vulnerable dogs, cats, and horses
Four-year-old Coulson Starrett meets his new furry friends, Nala and Bella, adopted by his family after meeting them on Zoom through their foster caregiver. Photo courtesy of the ASPCA.

In the face of the COVID-19 outbreak, animal welfare organizations and their communities have admirably stepped up in courageous ways to continue providing care for vulnerable animals. Here’s how you can help.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, animal welfare organizations are demonstrating just how flexible and determined they can be to provide for animals in need. Dog, cat, and equine shelters and rescues across the country are conducting remote and socially distanced adoptions, online meet-and-greets, and online training—all to continue providing animals with opportunities to find adoptive homes despite many pandemic-related restrictions on services and staff.

Meanwhile, foster caregivers are signing up in record-breaking numbers. Since March, we’ve seen a nearly 70% increase in dogs and cats going into foster care through our New York City and Los Angeles foster programs, as well as a 400% increase in completed online foster applications in those locations. We’ve also seen a 65% increase in equine fosters across the country.

Evie and Bella — A digital adoption story

One successful foster-to-adoption story involves a longtime Los Angeles foster caregiver named Sandra Suong. When the COVID-19 outbreak placed restrictions on her ability to host in-person visits, she switched to Zoom and Facetime sessions to promote her fostered nine-week-old kittens Evie and Bella. What Sandra discovered is that the virtual process not only made things easier; it also provided a clearer view of what life would be like with the kittens.

“Zoom makes it easy for fosters and adopters alike,” Sandra told us. “There’s not as much coordination on both ends because potential adopters aren’t making in-person visits.” She added, “Animals are also more relaxed when they’re in a familiar environment and show who they truly are. They’re not scared around new people and there are no limits to how often I can show them off.”

After three video sessions with an interested local family who were connected to Sandra through the ASPCA’s Kitten Foster Program, Sandra delivered Nala and Bella to their doorstep while respecting social distancing norms.

“Over Zoom, Sandra walked us through the process, telling us about their personalities, habits, and what kind of supplies we’d need,” the adopter, named Rachel, told us. “I didn’t feel like I was at a disadvantage because I couldn’t see the kittens in person because Sandra was able to convey their personalities and knew them well enough to give me an honest assessment.”

With tens of thousands of animals Like Evie and Bella in foster homes and rescues, we can help them by encouraging and enabling more virtual adoptions as well as by helping foster caregivers adopt out their animals. Transitioning animals directly from foster homes and rescues to adoptive homes not only accelerates adoptions; it also helps animal welfare organizations retain vital space and services for other animals in need.

National Adoption Weekend – how to get involved

To support these innovative and safe adoption practices, we established June 5-7 as National Adoption Weekend, a nationwide event designed to help more homeless cats, dogs, and horses find safe and loving homes during the COVID-19 crisis. Nearly 600 animal shelters and rescue groups from all 50 states have signed up to receive free resources, training, promotion, and support to advance their capabilities to conduct remote and contact-free adoptions and facilitate transitions of animals from foster to permanent placement when appropriate.

At ASPCA.org/AdoptFromHome, prospective adopters can use a comprehensive map of all participating animal shelters and rescue groups to find one nearby. And because new pets have better chances of staying in their homes when they see veterinarians soon after adoption, VCA Animal Hospitals is providing National Adoption Weekend adopters a free Healthy Start exam and up to $250 to treat minor illnesses at any of their hospitals in the first 14 days following their adoption.

National Adoption Weekend partners PetSmart and Petco are offering complimentary adoption kits to those who adopt an animal during National Adoption Weekend and The Shelter Pet Project will be promoting animals from participating shelters and rescues.

If you can’t adopt an animal at this time, please spread the word on social media, highlighting adoptable dogs, cats, and horses using the hashtag #AdoptFromHome. Remember: Every animal adopted means more space and resources for other animals in need.

Supporting virtual, socially distanced, and from-foster adoptions will save lives in the short term and almost certainly change the ways pet adoptions are conducted in the future. Seeing shelters and rescue organizations embrace new technology and implement virtual processes during a national crisis has been incredibly inspiring. We should celebrate their ingenuity and determination, as well as the commitment of foster caregivers who continue to step up when and how animal welfare organizations need them most.

These are unprecedented times for humans and animals alike, but pets have always provided unconditional comfort, love, and companionship when we’ve needed them most. It’s now up to all of us to return the favor.