Shelters Are Clearing Out as Pet Adoptions Surge

Layla the dog waits for paperwork to be completed so she can go to her new foster home in New Orleans in late March. Chris Graythen/Getty Images

As more people are sheltering at home, they're deciding to do it with a new temporary or permanent family member. Many rescue groups and shelters across the country are reporting success in finding homes and fosters for their furry residents.

Chicago Animal Care and Control posted on Facebook in early April, "CACC has no dogs currently available for adoption. We've never typed those words before. The last 2 available dogs — Penn and Alley — were adopted today. This will change and new dogs will be available depending on what comes in, but we just wanted to thank everyone who stepped up to adopt over the last few weeks. We are amazed at the outpouring of people wanting to help during this time."

There will be new dogs and cats in need soon enough, but for now, it's a moment to celebrate.

A few days later, Riverside County Animal Shelter in California posted a video on Instagram showing a completely empty facility. "We cleared the shelter! All of our adoptable animals have been adopted!"

These are just a couple of examples of a trend that's playing out across the nation. But even as shelters are getting in new adoptable pets, many seem to be adopting them out relatively quickly.

Shelters, which started the epidemic in dire need, are reporting huge increases in the numbers of animals they've been able to adopt or place in foster homes all over the country.

"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, tells Wired. "People who aren't able to foster or adopt are going to their local shelters' websites, seeing what they need, and are dropping off blankets and pet food. In the midst of all these things that are so challenging and so hard, communities are really stepping up for these animals."

Virtual introductions

Often adopters have to meet their new best friends virtually because shelters are closed to the public. Some rescues and shelters are posting videos online of available dogs, showing how they play and interact with people and other dogs (and sometimes cats). If people are interested, they can apply. Then sometimes they can do a virtual meet-and-greet online where a volunteer will do a video chat, talking to the people as they show them the pet.

The volunteer will typically ask questions about the wannabe-owner to see what kind of lifestyle they have and what kind of home they'll provide for the pet. Often they'll walk around and give a video tour of their home.

“We talk about their household and we talk about expectations; it’s the same counseling experience as usual, with the same questions and same suggestions, just socially distant,” Maranda Weathermon at West Valley City Animal Shelter in West Valley City, Utah, told Engadget. She said she thinks people who are willing to go through all the extra steps are serious about adding a pet to the family.

“I think it takes a lot of impulse out of an adoption."