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Friday, April 12, 2024

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Animal Adoptions Affected by COVID-19

Baloo is a Pekingese and Poodle mix adult available at the county Animal Shelter. Adoptions can still take place during this pandemic

By Karen Knight

To access the Herald’s local coronavirus/COVID-19 coverage, click here.
COURT HOUSE – Although the county Animal Shelter and Adoption Center is closed to the public due to COVID-19, volunteers are still walking dogs, staffs are still caring for about 200 animals and people are still interested in adopting pets.
While adoptions are taking place in new ways due to social distancing and other “new” ways of conducting business, the shelter manager is more concerned about “kitten season” and what will happen after the pandemic because animals have not been spayed or neutered.
“It’s kitties and pitties,” said Judith Davies-Dunhour, shelter manager, when asked about challenges amidst today’s pandemic rules. “We’re coming upon kitty season. Mom is pregnant with a litter, those kitties are born and in a couple of months, we’ll have all those kittens around, unfixed.
“In Cape May County, we run a cat clinic every Thursday to spay or neuter cats,” she explained. “We have an aggressive program, which we aren’t able to do right now.
“In New Jersey, any pit bull that is aggressive can be spayed or neutered for free,” she added. “We work with a behavior specialist who can help make adoptions successful by working with your dog(s). All of these things have been stopped now. The shelter has been closed to the public.”
Typically, the number of animals at the shelter during February and March is low, Davies-Dunhour said, and the approximate 200 housed there are being taken care of by staff and volunteers.
No staff has been laid off, working seven days a week to socialize and handle the pets’ medical and other needs.
Volunteers arrive by car and visit the dog runs outside for runs and socializing, never entering the building, she added.
“Adoptions are a bit of a challenge when you need to stay at least six feet apart,” the shelter manager said. “With dogs, it’s a little easier because you can see the dog in their runs, and the staff can stand 10 feet away.”
Pets available for adoption are posted on petfinder.com. If someone is interested in adopting a pet, Davies-Dunhour said they must fill out an application that is reviewed by the staff.
“We are handling everything case by case,” she explained. “You can tell us what type of dog you are looking for and we can walk through our shelter and recommend one that you can meet in a run. But if you have other dogs at home, or the personality of the dog doesn’t match your circumstances, then you might get turned down. People react emotionally to dogs, and their choice is driven by color or breed; they don’t necessarily think about the personality and whether the dog is good with kids, for example. We want the adoption to be successful, but don’t have all our support mechanisms available.”
Someone wanting to adopt a cat has to “trust our judgment,” Davies-Dunhour said. “Tell us what you want, and we’ll find one for you. We’ll put it in a cat carrier and you’ll be able to pick it up. It’s not the ideal way to get a pet, but it can work.”
Because veterinarians are not allowed to perform elective surgery at this time, no spaying or neutering is occurring. 
Davies-Dunhour believes this means post-pandemic, there will be a lot of cats in the area, both housebroken and feral.
“We are an unlimited intake facility, so we have to take in whatever is brought to our facility by any county resident and animal control,” the shelter manager said. “We are preparing for the influx. It’s no surprise, now is kitten season. However, we need to be ready when this is over.”
As an “unlimited intake” facility, Davies-Dunhour said they have never euthanized an animal for space reasons in the 11 years she has been shelter manager. Their euthanasia rate is below 10%, and they do euthanize healthy, aggressive dogs.
“The Cape May (county) community has always been supportive, whether we needed fostering families, donations or whatever,” she said. “So far, we’ve been able to handle everything, but I keep the community apprised of our needs on our Facebook page.
“If you are looking to help or donate, please send us an email first to see what our immediate need is,” she stressed. “I’d rather say ‘No, donate elsewhere’ because we have what we need than receive something we don’t need right now.”
The shelter’s email is animal.shelter@cmcsheriff.net.

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My Pet Needs That has shared an interesting infographic on the benefits of adopting a dog.

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