Animal shelters desperate for fosters during pandemic

Sigmund is 15 years young. He’s very, very social and active. He enjoys following his humans around for love and attention, but he’s just as happy sunbathing in a window. Sigmund enjoys having conversation with anyone who’s willing to talk back. Sigmund is available to be fostered.

As animal shelters are forced to adjust operations during the COVID-19 pandemic, they need more people to foster animals. Many have been forced to close or reduce their hours, meaning they must now rely on more people to foster the animals they care for. 

Anne Schmidt, executive director of the Metro East Humane Society, said the shelter was forced to make cutbacks in adoptions as the pandemic worsened, so they decided to focus more on fostering.

“We were limiting the people that were coming into our building … Because of that, we decided to move most of our animals into a foster situation,” Schmidt said. “You know, look at how our budget is, kind of cutting back on staff hours and being conscious of the fact that we’re nonprofit. The revenue that’s coming in isn’t normally coming in right now for us.”

Schmidt said the animals are not getting their usual amount of human interaction as a result of the outbreak. 

“The animals are used to human contact that they’re not getting right now, so fostering or putting animals into a foster situation is really important to us,” Schmidt said. 

According to Schmidt, the need for fostering has increased, as shelters are taking in more animals than are being adopted. Schmidt said they are used to doing more than 100 adoptions a month and bringing in animals at the same pace, but because people can’t come to the facility, adoption numbers are down.

“We pull — and this is the case for most rescues in the area — we pull most of our animals from Madison County Animal Control or animal control facilities around the area. Just because of this pandemic doesn’t mean that animals coming into animal control facilities have slowed down in any way, shape or form,” Schmidt said. “If anything, people are surrendering more of their animals. So the need for fostering, and our services, is even more important right now than ever before.”

Instead of offering the option to foster, some shelters have simply closed their doors. Karla Krane, an employee at Alton Area Animal Aid Association, said even when the shelter reopens, they must have restrictions. 

“We are just now going to start taking appointments the first of May for people to come and look at the dogs. We’re only letting one person, or maybe if there’s a spouse or somebody with them, two people, come in with masks on, of course, and they can look at the dogs,” Krane said. 

Like Schmidt, Krane said the lack of adoptions has hurt the shelter. 

“We’ve had no dogs adopted, which means we’ve had no income at all. It’s just been very hard, but we’re surviving,” Krane said. 

Since 5 A’s is closed, the employees’ hours have been reduced, but they often stay longer without extra pay to take care of the animals. 

“We just stay. Like today, I’m supposed to get off at noon, but I’ll be here until we close at 2:00 [p.m.] because I want to get dogs out, because it’s such a beautiful day outside,” Krane said. 

Krista Bennett, an SIUE alumna of 2017, has fostered dogs from Stray Rescue in St. Louis, and Pound Pets, Inc. in Granite City, Illinois. She said her job as a foster parent is to do what she can so the dog can be adopted. 

“Most of everything that you will need is provided for, so you just give the pet a home and try to help with training, anything that it needs to be adopted,” Bennett said. 

Those considering fostering an animal should be prepared to have some things in the house get torn up, Bennett said. 

“A lot of these animals have never been in a house before, so some of them are a lot of work. Or, have never been on a leash before, so if you’re trying to walk them if you don’t have a big yard, just be prepared,” Bennett said. “And they help you with training, too. If you have a pet that has a lot of issues, they’re really good about getting you the resources you need to make it a happy thing for you and the animal.”

Bennett said one of the benefits of fostering is the opportunity to save animals. 

“The fact that you are allowing the shelter to have another kennel open and available for another stray dog, I mean, it’s just amazing to know how many animals you can help save,” Bennett said. 

For more information, visit the Metro East Humane Society website, 5 A’s website, Stray Rescue’s website or Pound Pets, Inc.’s website. 

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