New York running out of dogs as foster care applications increase tenfold during coronavirus lockdown

Many people are turning to these furry friends to keep them company in quarantine as the pandemic continues to wreak havoc across the country

                            New York running out of dogs as foster care applications increase tenfold during coronavirus lockdown
(Getty Images)

The coronavirus pandemic has people in New York flocking to animal shelters to adopt furry four-legged friends as they are forced to stay at home in quarantine to slow the spread of the outbreak and flatten the curve.

New York is the epicenter of the outbreak in the United States, according to the John Hopkins University live-tracking dashboard, and has reported more than 103,000 cases, as well as close to 3,000 deaths from COVID-19. This has seen people adhere to stay-at-home orders, and as a consequence, many are reportedly turning to pets in a bid to stave off the loneliness and the isolation.

Muddy Paws Rescue and Best Friends Animal Society, both nonprofit animal welfare organizations, have revealed that shelters they work with are either all out or almost out of cats and dogs after a surge of applications in recent weeks.

That surge has been as high as 10 times the usual number of applications they get, with Anna Lai, the marketing director at Muddy Paws admitting it wasn't a bad problem to have. "For the moment we definitely don’t have any dogs left to match," she said. "Which is a great problem to have."

The trend wasn't just limited to New York either, with people living in many disease hotspots across the country seemingly turning to pets to calm their frayed nerves.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said its Los Angeles office saw a 70 percent increase in animals going into foster care, with Best Friends Animal Society similarly reporting the same phenomenon across many of the shelters it partners with across the country.

Best Friends said that their Salt Lake City branch received 350 new applications in just one week, and that their website traffic also increased by 240 percent with new visitors during the week of March 16-22.

"I think people are gravitating towards pets during this time of uncertainty because they can serve as a source of comfort," said Julie Castle, CEO of the organization. "The companionship of pets has been shown to reduce stress and lower anxiety, helping people to feel calmer and more secure when the news from the outside world is distressing."

Expanding further on the phenomenon, Shane G. Owens, Ph.D., ABPP, Assistant Director, Campus Mental Health Services, Farmingdale State College told MEA WorldWide (MEAWW) that these pets "made people feel good."

"Many people feel a responsibility to care for these animals," he said. "Funding for and attention to these animals will likely decrease, so people are picking up the slack and making themselves feel less lonely at the same time."

He also said people are looking for emotional support in pets during this time of isolation. "Human beings are built to be social and to be together. This well-intended physical separation is bound to take an emotional toll on all of us," he explained.

However, there is a fear amongst animal rescue organizations that this trend is only temporary, and that as the pandemic continues, they'll see many surrender their pets because they are losing their jobs.

"We’re doing whatever we can to empty all of our shelter facilities,” said Lisa LaFontaine, chief executive officer of the Humane Rescue Alliance, which has adoption centers in the District of Columbia and New Jersey. “We don’t know what’s going to happen when the economic wave starts hitting."

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