Pups during a pandemic

Fostering and adoption have increased during the COVID-19 pandemic

Silfvast's new adopted puppy, Phoebe, brings joy during a difficult time.

Karen Silfvast

Silfvast's new adopted puppy, Phoebe, brings joy during a difficult time.

While the world has erupted in chaos, many people are finding joy in having a furry friend by their side. With this new demand for comfort, some animal shelters are emptier than ever before.

During the COVID-19 outbreak, many people have been adopting and fostering animals. This has provided people with a sense of purpose, and shelters such as Riverside County Animal Services are completely empty.

“All of our adoptable animals have been adopted!” said Riverside County Animal Services in an Instagram post on April 8.

The Peninsula Humane Society & SPCA have also experienced an increase in adoptions and fosters.

“We’ve adopted out 246 animals from March 16 to today. We also have several animals in foster care right now, including under-aged kittens,” said Buffy Martin-Tarbox, the communications manager at the Peninsula Humane Society & SPCA.

Animals haven’t been the only beneficiaries of the rise in adoptions. Studies have shown that having an animal companion can have long-term health benefits. People with pets have fewer risks of heart disease and live a more active lifestyle than those who don’t have animals. Along with physical effects, pets can provide many psychological benefits. They can combat loneliness and provide their owners with a sense of accomplishment. 

“My dog comforts me and makes me feel so much calmer when I am stressed out,” said dog owner Keona Garza Helmer.

In a time of isolation, many people are finding animal companions especially helpful. Three out of four people suffer from skin hunger or lack of physical contact, according to Psychology Today. While human contact with animals can’t completely suffice, it does make an impact on humans’ craving for physical touch.

“One of the main benefits of having an animal companion, whether through fostering or adopting, is that animals provide a constant source of love and companionship. Especially now with so many people spending more time at home, an animal can help reduce loneliness, anxiety, and stress,” Martin-Tarbox said.

Pet owners fostering during this difficult time have been especially rewarded. Since the lockdown began, Karen Silfvast has fostered two German-Shepherd-mix puppies through Go Beyond Rescue in San Francisco. Her family has also adopted a puppy and given it a forever home. Not only has this positively impacted her family, but it has also changed the puppies’ lives.

“It has been so rewarding and fun. There was lots of work with house training, but it felt good to give puppies a new start to life with love, kindness, and safety,” Silfvast said.

However, as people begin adopting more pets during the lockdown, people are worried about what will happen after the pandemic. Some believe that the uptick in adoptions will not continue after the shelter in place. 

“I do think anyone who adopts needs to know that it is a serious life long commitment, not something fun to do during the shelter in place. There is definitely some concern in the rescue community that many of these adopted puppies will return to the shelter once life returns to normal,” Silfvast said. 

However, as summer quickly approaches, the Peninsula Human Society & SPCA are not worried about a potential decline in adoptions after the lockdown ends.

“We expect at Peninsula Humane Society & SPCA adoption rates will not only maintain but will likely increase once the shelter-in-place order is lifted. Kitten season is starting, and soon we will have lots of kittens (and even puppies) available for adoption at our shelter,” Martin-Tarbox said.