New safety guidelines affect animal adoptions at shelters
By Cheryl Minns, Senior Columnist
Physically distancing yourself from others—be it six feet apart or full isolation—can certainly get lonely without some kind of interaction. Perhaps this is why (among other reasons) people are now opening their homes to rescue pets—
making a new friend for life and freeing up shelter space for another animal in need.
“There are a lot of people saying that this is an opportunity to bring an animal into their home because they’ve got the time,” said Nicole McBain, manager of the Burnaby SPCA, to the Other Press in a phone interview. “It’s been really great community support.”
Although new physical distancing and cleaning protocols mean BC SPCA shelters are closed to the public for casual viewings, the shelters are working within these new limits to accommodate the people who want to adopt.
“We’re directing everyone to our website where we have a new online application for dogs and cats that can be filled out directly on the website, which is great,” McBain said. “Everything is by appointment only. We’re spacing them out to make sure that we don’t have overlapping visitors coming in.”
Like the BC SPCA, the New Westminster Animal Shelter has changed its adoption procedure due to the new protocols and being closed to the public. The old procedure allowed the public to visit the shelter and see the animals, find a pet they would like to adopt, submit an application, wait a few days for approval, then return to pick up their pet. Now the shelter has streamlined the process to avoid having people make multiple trips. Instead, they ask people to review the adoptable animals online, submit an application for their desired pet, wait to be approved, and then arrange to meet the animal in person.
“We schedule a time for them to come meet the pet and, if the meeting goes well, we can send them home the same day. We can do that with our cats and our small animals—rabbits, guinea pigs, and such,” said Margie Fox, an animal service officer at the New Westminster Animal Shelter.
However, this new procedure has affected the adoption possibilities of a certain type of popular pet at New Westminster Animal Shelter.
“Unfortunately, we can’t do the meet and greets with dogs and adhere to the physical distancing requirements. We’ll gladly talk to people on the phone about the dogs we have for adoption and take applications and review them, but we’ll have to postpone any meetings. The dogs we have are probably going to be with us until we can reopen to the general public,” Fox said.
On March 23 to 27, the BC SPCA ran an adoption promotion which offered 50 percent off adoption fees. According to the BC SPCA website, the promotion resulted in a variety of animals finding new homes. Adopted pets included the usual cats and dogs, and birds, small animals, and even some farm animals—including mini-horses.
“Over 300 animals around the province found their home in just one week,” McBain said.
The community’s outpouring of support for local shelters is surely a welcomed surprise, considering some groups fear that pets may potentially play a role in spreading COVID-19.
“I think there has been some concern, but it hasn’t been as prevalent as we were anticipating,” McBain said.
According to the BC Centre for Disease Control website, there isn’t any evidence at this time that shows domestic animals or livestock can get sick from COVID-19 or spread it to humans. However, the centre also states that the situation is constantly changing and new information on this issue could come to light in the future.
For those interested in adopting a pet, check out spca.bc.ca for the BC SPCA and local city shelters for online listings of adoptable animals and adoption applications.
For anyone wanting to support shelters and the animals in their care, many shelters have a donation option on their websites where people can send financial support.
“We are always very grateful for monetary donations because they go right to the veterinary costs that are above and beyond the basic care,” Fox said.