We are living through an unprecedented moment in history that none of us were prepared for. Things we took for granted like running to the grocery store or even going into the office are no longer a reality. Not surprisingly, in such a time of crisis and change, we are frightened, anxious, and isolated. At times like this, it's easy to see the worst in humanity.

But, like Mr. Rogers used to say, "Look for the helpers."

An Unexpected Upside

One unexpected side effect of the pandemic and our current remote, socially distanced life, is that animal shelters around the country are clearing out.

These are the same animal shelters that not too long ago, were struggling to get their animals fostered and adopted. Waitlists to foster animals across the country are reported to include anywhere from 1,000 to 2,000 names.

Patricia Lara, founder of Wonder Paws Rescue, a nonprofit animal rescue based in South Florida shared, "normally it takes at least two weeks to have five new kittens adopted or fostered. Now we are seeing it happen overnight."

Shelters During COVID-19

Animal Shelters

Considered essential businesses, shelters have their employees decked out in protective gear while they continue to work hard for the pets in their care. With that said, shelters are concerned for the well-being of their employees which is why there has been such a push for fostering. Luckily, people are stepping up!

However, even with the spike in fostering and adoptions, shelters are still in need. For the safety of the workers, these shelters need to operate with a skeleton crew. However, this is nearly impossible if the shelters are full. Also, many shelters rely on donations to stay afloat and, as is common in any economic downturn, donations have slowed in the past few weeks.

Logistically, animal shelters have had to adapt to new challenges that go along with adoption and fostering. Usually, to adopt an animal, you would visit a shelter and meet all the animals but for obvious reasons, that is not a possibility. Instead, many shelters are hosting virtual adoption appointments and having people pick up their animals curbside.

For people who aren't ready to commit to years of pet parenting, fostering is a great option. Finding a temporary home is still wonderful for the animals, especially because fostering generally increases chances of adoption. If the trend holds, many of these animals will have found their forever home in the midst of an extremely challenging time for most people.

Why Now?

So, why now? Why are so many people fostering and adopting pets at this time in history? In order to gain a better understanding, we asked a few new pet parents why they decided to bring home a furry friend during a pandemic.

Mental Health Benefits

Jenny Block, author of "Be That Unicorn: Find your Magic. Live your Truth. Share your Shine", shared her reasoning for adopting Aurora, a miniature Chiweenie. It had to do with both wanting to help but also needing a little help herself. "I kept seeing posts about shelters overflowing and I was really starting to get anxious and restless. So adopting seemed like a way to save two lives."

Aurora The Miniature Chiweenie

Bringing a new pet into her home was not only good for the pup but good for her own mental health, "I am constantly playing with her or chasing her or generally caring for her. I also go out on a long walk every day to lull her to sleep in the carrier and keep her from getting bored. And every time I look at her, I know I made a difference even if it was only in one teeny, little furry life."

With human interaction at an all time low, it's not surprising that most people are struggling with loneliness. However, a new pet can provide a person with comfort and positive distraction from current events. These pets give them something to focus on other than the constant news cycle - something we could all use.

Additional Time At Home

Amber Essary, a marketing account manager at Vision Point Marketing, went through a breakup right before the pandemic and found herself struggling with her new isolation.

Even though she had never owned a dog before, she decided it was the perfect time for a new addition and adopted Marty, a miniature Golden Doodle.

Amber says, "I have a pretty demanding job at a great marketing agency and never saw owning a puppy as a possibility for me. Strangely, the one silver lining of this cataclysmic global event was that it opened up the perfect window for me to get a puppy. While my days are still jam-packed with meetings, working from home is conducive to letting the pup out every couple of hours."

Marty The Miniature Golden Doodle

And while caring for a new puppy is certainly no walk in the park, Amber says "there has been nothing I’d rather fill my time with. He fills up my time and my heart. There’s a reason therapy dogs exist, there is something so incredibly comforting about growing a bond with a puppy and knowing you’re responsible for a sweet little life."

So many Americans are now working from home. This is another reason that many people are fostering and adopting. Long hours at the office and intense travel schedules are no longer deterring people from welcoming animals into their homes.

Pets Give Us Structure

Seth Menacker and his wife both have very busy careers. Seth is an Account Manager at Clarity PR and his wife is an Elementary School Social Worker. He says, "we both work full time, so we knew getting a puppy would be a challenge." In fact, they had decided to wait until the summer to adopt a puppy as his wife would be off from her job. But now, faced with all this time at home, they accelerated their timeline and adopted an adorable three-month-old hound mix named Mookie.

Mookie The Hound Mix

Mookie has given them some structure during this time when sticking to a schedule seems impossible. After getting into the habit of sleeping in later than usual, Seth says, "we are up at 6:45 am to take Mookie for his morning walk. During the week, we sync up our work meeting schedules and plan out our day in terms of who is watching the dog."

The structure an animal can provide to your day can be helpful in maintaining balance during this uncertain time. After all, you have to get up to feed them, take them outside, and adhere to a schedule. This structure gives us a sense of purpose and normalcy which is very important during such a chaotic time.

Adopting During COVID-19: Final Thoughts

Adopting and fostering animals is a wonderful way to give back. But, there's also a lot of benefits in it for you as well.

Isolation and loneliness can be extremely detrimental to your health. In fact, studies show it can even lead to an early death or diseases, such as Alzheimers. Luckily, interacting with animals can lower blood pressure, heart rate, and increase hormones like dopamine and oxytocin. In short, animals make you feel good and keep you healthy!

If you're having a hard time adjusting to this new normal but cannot get a pet due to housing restrictions, check out CertaPet to see if you qualify for an Emotional Support Animal. As an Emotional Support Animal (ESA) owner, you are able to bring home your pet regardless of your apartment’s restrictions.

Bringing home a new pet is a massive responsibility. Caring for a new pet generally involves waking up early, daily walks, and training sessions. With that said, if you're feeling a little down, are working from home, and have an affinity for cute, furry creatures, fostering or adopting may be a great option for you! All you have to do is reach out to your local animal shelter.