OLIVE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) – While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says there is no evidence cats and dogs can spread coronavirus, COVID-19’s impact is still evident at West Michigan’s animal shelters.

At Harbor Humane Society in West Olive, staff says nearly 200 animals are filling up kennels. They say in the last few weeks, they’ve seen an influx of people coming to the shelter for entertainment but few people in line to adopt. 

“It’s certainly uncharted territory for us here. We have been impacted in ways I don’t even think we imagined or expected,” said Jen Nurenberg with Harbor Humane Society.

To protect volunteers and staff, the shelter has moved to appointments only. 

“We have made a couple changes in the last couple days to incoming traffic just to lessen foot traffic here, work with social distancing,” Nurenberg added.

The shelter says it has also seen a sharp decline in donations, forcing it to cut staff and make due with less. Nurenberg said the shelter depends on that money to care for the animals. 

The virus has become an issue several shelters across the state are now working around.

“I’ve never seen anything like this. This is crazy times,” Michelle Kenat with Best Pals Animal Rescue in West Olive said.

Kenat’s shelter can hold up to 17 cats and five to six dogs at a time. She said she’s not seeing the same issues as other shelters, so she’s using her small operation to take strain off of other facilities. Just this week, she picked up three dogs from a shelter in St. Clair Shores and a dog from Pound Buddies in Muskegon.

“It might not be a lot in the scope of things but it does my heart good knowing we can get them good vet care,” Kenat said.

The shelters are asking for the community to help by fostering, adopting and donating food or money.

“Our goal is to continue to open up space here in the shelter so that if and when its needed, if people are getting sick, if they’re ending up in the hospital and their pets need a place to go… we can help with that,” Nurenberg said.

The BISSELL Pet Foundation, which has agreed to help Michigan shelters, says the challenge is threefold: Executive orders have eliminated visits from potential adopters and fewer staff and volunteers are available to care for the shelter pets. Additionally, many shelter fundraising events have been canceled because of crowd regulations.

A dog awaiting adoption. (File)

That’s why, starting Thursday, the foundation is sponsoring a weeklong impromptu Empty the Shelters adoption special at 30 shelters statewide, including the following locations:

Adoptions are $25 for eligible pet owners and BISSELL Pet Foundation is offering reduced adoption fees for foster-to-adopt cases.

The event is by appointment only for social distancing purposes. Those interested taking advantage of the adoption deal must fill out an online application first. Shelter staff will then contact them to set up an appointment.

The pet adoption special runs through March 25.

Those who cannot adopt right now can help by donating to BISSELL Pet Foundation on the organization’s website, https://www.bissellpetfoundation.org/donate/.