Whether they’re feeling lonely cooped up at home or have more time on their hands because of the stay-at-home order, more and more Peninsula residents are seeking the companionship of animals, according to the nonprofit Peninsula Humane Society & SPCA.
Since the order was issued mid-March, PHS has facilitated 106 adoptions of dogs, cats and other pets — a 30% increase over historic adoption numbers for that timeframe, said Buffy Martin Tarbox, the nonprofit’s spokeswoman.
Tarbox only expects that number to increase moving forward as the breeding season will soon be underway and more and more kittens especially, but also puppies will be available for adoption.
“We think the increase in adoption numbers is related to the fact that people are at home. People are thinking about ways to maybe ease their anxiety and stress and we know animals can contribute to that,” Tarbox said.
PHS manages shelters in Burlingame and San Mateo and also cares for injured or orphaned wildlife in San Mateo as well as in San Francisco and Santa Clara counties. The nonprofit’s work saves more than 5,500 lives each year, according to its website.
While adoptions are primarily of dogs and cats, the nonprofit is also home to guinea pigs, rabbits, birds and bearded dragons, one of which named Shakesbeard was adopted last week, Tarbox said.
PHS continues to facilitate adoptions and offer other essential services, but business is being conducted differently of late because of the COVID-19 situation. Adoptions are now by appointment rather than via walk-ins, though those looking to adopt can see the animals online ahead of time. Other interactions, including the surrendering of animals, are done outside of the building; visitors are asked to call when parked out front and an employee will come to them to assist.
“That seems to be working quite well,” Tarbox said.
The shelters have already been adhering to stringent hygienic protocol before the outbreak, and those efforts have only increased. “Extreme” social distancing is also practiced at all times, Tarbox added.
The wildlife care center is still fully operational, officers continue to respond to calls for injured or abandoned wildlife and while there are fewer volunteers on hand than usual because of COVID-19-related restrictions, all of the animals’ needs continue to be met, Tarbox said.
Unfortunately educational programs, spay and neuter services as well as fundraising events have had to be canceled, but the nonprofit has been transitioning programming online as much as possible. A pet loss support group, for example, will be offered online for the first time on April 9. Run by a licensed grief counselor, the gathering is free of charge and open to anyone looking for emotional support due to the loss of a pet.
“Especially nowadays with everything going on we wanted to continue to provide that,” Tarbox said.
The nonprofit has also had to press pause on its pet therapy program due to social distancing rules, though it is increasingly posting videos of the animals for clients to enjoy remotely.
“Maybe some patients and children are used to a particular dog and it’s exciting to see him or her on video getting their teeth brushed or doing funny things,” Tarbox said, adding that the nonprofit’s social media engagement has grown significantly since the stay-at-home order was issued.
“People are desperate for heartwarming and positive news,” she said.
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