A high-risk person with a rare progressive lung disease, Stacy Grace has been staying at home throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
But on Aug. 18, she and her husband ventured to the Stark County Humane Society to adopt a 6-month old chihuahua/Shih Tzu mix puppy she named Harlow.
“I didn’t have an interest in adopting. I already have a dog, and I lost another about a year ago,” said Grace, who lives in Wooster.
After a friend sent her a Facebook post showing “this adorable dog” available for adoption in Stark County, “I said, ‘I’ve gotta go get her.’ It seemed like the perfect time to have another companion around the house.”
It’s an impulse that has been felt by many people. Across the U.S., animal shelters have seen upsurges in adoptions as social distancing, working from home and lack of travel have kept people home more than ever.
“Folks who don’t have animals for one reasons or another, because of their work schedule or their travel schedule, that’s all changed right now,” Kitty Block, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, told Wired.com.
While the Stark County Humane Society has not run out of adoptable animals during COVID-19, adoptions of dogs and cats have been strong, comparable to the numbers from 2019. In June, 82 dogs and 155 cats were adopted. In July, 74 dogs and 178 cats.
“People went from working 40 hours a week to working from home, where they could train a new pet with the whole family for a comfortable transition,” said Jackie Godbey, executive director of the Stark society. “Single people who no longer left the house for work, stores and the gym looked for a companion pet.”
What is down is the number of intake animals, which Godbey said she also feels is due to pet owners being at home. “We have plenty of cage space available for animals in need,” she said. “We’ve been told we may see an increase due to evictions and foreclosures as COVID is lifting.”
In the early days of COVID-19, starting March 23, the Humane Society halted adoptions for two weeks, following Ohio guidelines. Then on April 6, “we started doing virtual adoptions to prevent visitors,” Godbey said.
“People would go on the website, Facebook, Zoom or call in and we’d screen them. Once we found an animal we thought would work, the’d come in to meet the animal, using the white picket fence (area) of the breezeway. Everything contactless,” Godbey said. “That first month, we adopted 130 animals.”
Grace enjoyed her adoption experience at the Humane Society. “Everybody was very nice and helpful, from phone calls to walking in the door to leaving,” she said. “Everybody had masks on and was very cautious, using hand sanitizer. I felt safe and comfortable, which for me is saying a lot.”
Th pup that Grace adopted was microchipped, spayed and had all of her shots, for a $90 total fee. The cost ranges from $60 ro $90, depending on the animal’s age. Photos of available animals may be viewed at StarkHumane.org, on the adoption page. Humane Society hours are Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
“I’m on rounds of antibiotics, and this smart little dog picked up on that,” Grace said of Harlow. “She snuggles me and takes care of me. Mentally, it’s the best thing ever to have dogs that care about you.”