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West Valley City Journal

COVID-19 helps shelter pets in West Valley City get new homes

Jun 08, 2020 12:03PM ● By Darrell Kirby

By Darrell Kirby | [email protected]

While the spread of COVID-19 has taken a toll on humans in a variety of ways, it has been a boon to man’s best friend and its feline counterpart. 

Mirroring a nationwide trend during the peak of the pandemic, West Valley City Animal Services had nearly all of its dogs and a smaller but sizable number of cats go to new homes as either adopted or foster pets. 

The period of March 28 to April 30 saw 98 dogs and cats walk out with new owners to begin life outside the animal shelter. That is nearly double the 54 that were adopted or fostered during the same period in 2019. The vast majority were dogs. 

West Valley City Animal Services director Maranda Weathermon says a combination of coronavirus-induced factors unleashed the demand for furry companions. 

One is that adults and children were working and schooling from home because of the “Stay Safe, Stay Home” directive in effect at the time which gave them an earlier-than-usual jump on the summertime spike in pet adoptions. “It’s the perfect time to get a new dog and get them acclimated to their new home before they go back to work,” Weathermon said. Another motive: “Some people just needed an excuse to get a second dog,” she said with a laugh. 

Weathermon said that before leaving the animal shelter, new pet owners are counseled on caring for their four-legged additions to make the pairing a mutually satisfying, long-term relationship. “This isn’t just a coronavirus pandemic puppy. We’re trying to educate people on how to prepare their dogs for going home, for being alone,” when their human family members return to work, school and other normal routines. Weathermon hopes to avoid situations where the novelty and commitment fade and dogs and other pets are returned to the shelter. 

After the run on adoptive and foster pets, the West Valley animal shelter was down to just three dogs in its kennels. The shelter received new canine residents from the Salt Lake City operations of Best Friends Animal Society, the national no-kill animal sanctuary based in Kanab. The local office has channeled hundreds of companion animals from Kanab and other shelters unable to care for them because of COVID-19 closures or lack of resources to facilities that had high demand for pets, West Valley among them.

Temma Martin, spokeswoman for Best Friends Animal Society, said Best Friends in Salt Lake City saw 329 pets adopted from March 13 to April 21, compared to 90 during the same time frame in 2019. That five-week period this year had 564 animals enter foster care. It was just 132 a year ago. 

“This has represented an amazing opportunity to get pets out of shelters and into foster homes, which is good for both the pets and the people. We expect that many people will get attached to their foster pets and discover that they enjoy having a pet around and choose to adopt in the coming weeks or months, if they haven't already,” said Julie Castle, CEO of Best Friends Animal Society. 

“A lot of people are fostering or adopting for the first time or just choosing this time to do it, because it is a convenient time to bring an animal into the home,” Martin said. Prospective adopters get to know more about the pets they are interested in by way of video “meet and greets.” “The potential adopter can ask all the questions to the foster caregiver and learn all about the animal, how it behaves in a home, and what it likes and doesn’t like,” she said. 

The rush to fetch a new pet is not just a local phenomenon. Animal welfare organizations and shelters around the country reported a sharp rise in pet adoptions and fostering, largely for the same reasons cited by the West Valley shelter. 

Despite the circumstances that brought it on, Weathermon is pleased with the local interest in pet adoptions and fostering. “Everybody is really working toward getting animals in homes. That’s really, really exciting as long as people are doing it responsibly.”