423 pets were adopted from Athens-Clarke County Animal Services in 2020. Considering the pandemic has halted life in a way that hasn’t exactly been experienced before, these pets may be used to their owners presence throughout the week. Now that students and teachers are returning to in-person school, how will pets fare?
“It’s definitely going to be a shift for everybody,” Selah Gardiner, former Athens-Clarke County Animal Services employee, said.
There were 483 adoptions in 2018, and 458 in 2019. Added with the 423 adoptions from 2020, that makes an average of 455 pets adopted in the last three years.
“Our adoptions probably stayed pretty consistent, despite the fact that we were in the beginning of the pandemic,” Gardiner said.
While the shelter was closed for all public entries, contactless outdoor pet introductions were still conducted. Gardiner says the fostering program “skyrocketed” during the pandemic to facilitate many of those adoptions.
“When we sent an animal out of our kennel shelter environment into a home, they were getting more visibility than we were actually able to give them in the shelter. Friends and family were seeing them on social media, neighbors were seeing them on walks. People were telling people in their circles about pets they were fostering, and we actually did see a lot of adoptions from fosters, not necessarily from fostering itself,” Gardiner said.
Like most people since the pandemic started, Amanda Mooney, a long-time volunteer at the animal shelter, had more time on her hands. She was able to work from home and focus on the foster animals more so than she had been before Covid-19 hit.
“Once we were working from home I realized I had time to foster,” volunteer Amanda Mooney said. “After that, I just felt really attached to him and I thought well, ‘I have time for a pet.’”
Adoptions still happened alongside the added safety procedures during the height of the pandemic. Visitors now had to make an appointment before going into the building.
“It all happened nicely, which is a strange thing to say about a pandemic,” Gardiner said.
In July 2020, the animal shelter boarded a new online shelter software system called Pet Point. Employees posted pets onto the website with their photos and descriptions so that people could then place an online application or call for an appointment.
“That was an extremely helpful vehicle for us to get information out to our community without them having to come to our physical shelter and look at the pets,” Gardiner said.
Now that schedules are becoming increasingly condensed with fewer safety concerns and regulations, new pet owners will have to adjust to provide the best care for their animals.
“My worry is that we are seeing uptick in separation anxiety, especially with dogs, because they’ve probably become so accustomed (to their owners being home more often). It’s been a year now that we’ve been in our homes rather than out in the community and in our workplaces. I think there’s a good likelihood that we will see more dog owners since people’s dogs are more excited when they get home,” Gardiner said.
Mooney is concerned about how her cat, Sprout, will adjust to her schedule change.
“My cat (Sprout) still has total kitten energy. When I’m working from home, wherever I’m sitting, whether I’m working at my kitchen table or my little makeshift office, he always likes to be in the same room and try to come sit in my lap, or bring me a toy, so I feel like when I go back to work, he might be a little bored,” Mooney said.
Another concern that dog owners have is exercise. When students and teachers are at the school building from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm, walking your dog simply isn’t possible during that time period. During the pandemic, it is easier for this to be accomplished.
“I would guess for dog owners their dogs are probably getting more exercise. They’re probably getting walked more just because they’re home, and they have a little more flexibility in their day to do that,” Gardiner said.
Gardiner suggests helping pets adjust to new schedules piece by piece.
“Incrementally take time away, out of the home away from their pets so that when that (going back to school or work) does happen, it’s not such a shock for their pets at home,” Gardiner said.