While COVID-19 has caused several services to be deemed nonessential, animal shelters have seen an increase in business with pets being adopted and fostered more frequently by people in quarantine. 

The Athens County Dog Shelter, 13333 OH-13, Chauncey, serves as a safe place for abandoned, surrendered or stray dogs while awaiting possible adoptions. The shelter works to reduce and eliminate the neglect and abuse these dogs experience while working to enhance the animals’ quality of life. 

Heather Norman, office manager of the Athens County Dog Shelter, said prior to the pandemic, few adoptions took place, but now its business has thoughtfully adapted to the pandemic’s changes. 

“We have altered our business by sending a lot of our dogs out to foster homes, which has helped them get adopted so much more quickly,” Norman said. “The point in getting dogs out in fosters was to slow our volunteers from coming in while we go through this pandemic.”

The Athens County Humane Society, while not a shelter, is a nonprofit organization that focuses primarily on minimal cost services, like spaying and neutering, while also housing a cat adoption and fostering program to offer better care and attention to animals. 

Angela Marx, executive director of the Athens County Humane Society, described how their roles have changed within the organization since the pandemic began.

“During the quarantine, several of our spay/neuter clinics have been canceled, so I am spending a lot of time working on getting at-risk cats in for spay/neuter procedures at local vets,” Marx said. “We are trying very hard to limit the amount of unwanted litters of kittens being born in the spring and summer months due to them not being able to get into our clinics.”

Since the Athens County Humane Society is not a shelter, Marx said this has caused it to rely heavily on fosters. 

“Typically, we utilize the cat adoption room at the Athens PetSmart,” Marx said. “However, that has been temporarily closed during the quarantine, so right now, we are 100% reliant on fosters. We have a very dedicated group of fosters that make adoptions possible. They have been working with myself and with potential adopters to enable safe, in-home meet and greets.”

Since the start of the pandemic, both organizations have witnessed a broad increase in adoptions and fosters. Marx said this growth in business is due in part to the stay-at-home orders, which have inspired some families to get pets, as they now have more time on their hands to train and care for the animals.  

“It's great that there is some extra time to bond with and get a new family member settled in,” Marx said. “Pets can help add structure and routine to daily life, and I think we are all craving that right now. I’m sure the company and distraction are a huge plus as well.”

Lexi Fox, a freshman studying exercise physiology, has adopted many animals with her family. Fox said she has a passion for adopting animals rather than purchasing from a breeder. 

“Even though you could get a dog from a breeder, there’s plenty of good animals that need a home in your local shelter,” Fox said. “Most of the dogs and cats we have are from the shelters, and I think it’s just because I grew up with this idea that there’s plenty of good pets at the shelters that need a proper home where they can get what they need and deserve.”

Fox stressed how, during the coronavirus crisis, it is even more important to consider adopting and fostering animals. 

“During these troubling times, people aren’t able to go into the shelters and look at the animals, and because of social distancing, the shelters aren’t supposed to have as many employees there to take care of the pets,” Fox said. “So it’s really important for these foster and rescue groups to take the animals out and give them places to stay.”

Though the rise in adoptions and fosters has certainly benefited their businesses, Norman said it is also emotionally rewarding to see the animals get placed in loving homes. 

“It makes us overjoyed to see some of our longer-term dogs getting adopted and placed in homes,” Norman said. “Currently, we have four dogs in our shelter, with two being available for adoption. The other two are on stray hold. We are usually very full at the shelter with 20 or more dogs. It's been amazing to see our community come together to help all of our homeless dogs. It makes your heart burst with joy.”