While many pets are getting extra attention at home in recent weeks, the number of pet adoptions has declined dramatically throughout New Hampshire.
As animal shelters shift to appointment-only adoptions or virtual adoptions in an attempt to limit possible exposure to COVID-19, the amount of interest just isn’t the same.
“Adoptions are down dramatically — there have been very few,” said Maureen Prendergast of the Animal Rescue League of New Hampshire in Bedford.
Relying on online photographs of a dog, cat or bunny to grab the attention of a possible new owner is significantly more challenging than a face-to-face encounter, acknowledged Prendergast.
“It is hard to gain a feel for something online, especially pets. It is not just the same,” she said.
The Animal Rescue League of New Hampshire did not have any southern transports in the few weeks leading up to the quarantine, which was a blessing in disguise, said Prendergast, adding staff worked quickly to get as many cats and rabbits adopted or placed into foster care as possible. It still has several dogs at the shelter, but Prendergast said the staff is giving them extra attention with hikes, walks and car rides.
“We think their mental spirit is staying high even though ours is mentally challenged,” she said.
The New Hampshire SPCA in Stratham is currently using a virtual adoption process.
“We have been able to adopt out, but at a far, far, far reduced rate,” said Sheila Ryan, director of development and marketing for the NHSPCA. “They are slowly getting adopted, but it is a very different process.”
While most animals have been placed into foster care during the pandemic, some animals, specifically those that are on medical hold, are still being taken care of at the shelter.
Although three rats were recently adopted, as well as some doves and other birds, Ryan said there are still two German shepherds waiting patiently to find their forever homes.
Half of the staff at the Humane Society for Greater Nashua has been placed on furlough.
Doug Barry, president and CEO at the Humane Society for Greater Nashua, said he applied and was approved for a federal loan that will enable his workforce to resume working on April 27.
“We have been adopting rats, cats and dogs, but like everyone else, at a much lower amount,” said Barry, adding the shelter had received one dog from a household that was diagnosed with COVID-19, however that dog was expected to return home this past weekend.
Barry is still hopeful that come May, there will be spay and neutering opportunities for the pets, as well as vaccination clinics and dog transports.
“It will slowly get back to normal — I feel optimistic about that,” he said.
Teresa Paradis, owner of Live and Let Live Farm in Chichester, said the challenges associated with COVID-19 are many.
“At this time, no more fundraisers are allowed, no more guided tours are allowed, no more adoption events are allowed,” said Paradis, who said two horses were coming to the farm on Sunday because their owner could no longer afford their care.
She worries that because of the Canadian border closing, she might not be able to receive the tractor trailer of hay she needs every three weeks for the farm.
Even though people are interested in adopting, Paradis said the vets are only permitted to conduct emergency care right now, meaning she cannot get the health certificates or updated vaccines needed for some of the litters of puppies and kittens currently in her care.
It is also crucial to socialize certain animals with future owners, specifically birds, according to Paradis, who said that isn’t feasible right now because of social distancing guidelines.
“We are still here to help, though. We will find a place for any animal that needs it,” she said.
One-on-one appointments are available for surrenders or adoptions.