With the COVID pandemic still young, I wrote a post on March 16 sharing my alarm that stay-at-home orders might cripple pet adoption efforts, perhaps leading to mass euthanization at some facilities as shelters closed to patrons, intakes continued, and adoptions slowed or stopped.
I can’t prove it didn’t happen anywhere, but the stories about fosters and adopters “cleaning out” shelters during the pandemic suggests a much happier outcome for many, even most shelter animals.
Shelters and rescues found ways to do adoptions regardless of stay-at-home orders. Meet-and-greets were done by appointment and it seemed to work. People found it in their hearts to foster or adopt animals who needed homes. God bless them all.
Our Finest Hour?
The COVID-19 Pandemic will go down as one of the greatest “moments” in the history of America’s no-kill shelter movement. We should all feel proud of this. We and the animals have been blessed by a huge outpouring of compassion during a terrible time. People heard our calls and responded magnificently.
While fostering is understood to be time-limited, it still means many animals may be about to go back into the adoption system, in need of new permanent homes.
Adoption, meanwhile, is supposed to be forever, but will it prove to be?
How many of the “COVID companions” we read about — pets adopted by persons forced to stay-at-home during the pandemic — will become adoption returns once their owners go back to work?
How will these animals react when their people start becoming absent perhaps 10 or 12 hours each day?
A Pandemic of COVID Adoption Returns?
Some COVID adoptions won’t work out and those animals will hopefully be returned by their adopters. This happens even during the best of times. Sometimes the animals and people aren’t well-matched and it may be best for the animal to get a second (or third) “second chance.”
Animal advocates tend to be a judgmental group, quick to presume that adoptions fail because the humans were not serious enough, did not appreciate what “furever” really means, or just had bad intent from the start.
I’d like to suggest putting this vindictiveness out of our lives during whatever post-COVID adoption return crisis may occur.
We should remember that these COVID adopters — even if they don’t meet our “superior” ethical standards — did help shelters and rescues save animal lives during the worst crisis in many of our lifetimes.
An animal that is being returned is an animal that didn’t perish because of COVID stay-at-home. And when the animals come back we should be happy to welcome them back, alive and hopefully well.
We should thank the people who cared for them, not criticize them for succumbing to save-the-pet emotion while losing sight of own-the-pet reality. Saving an animal is a good deed and should be treated as such.
While much time, effort, and money has already been invested in COVID lifesaving by animal groups, the coming weeks and months may require even more heroic efforts to get foster and adoption returns into truly forever homes.
This is something our community will do.
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