Quarantine companion: Some see pet adoption as cure for blues

Muskegon County

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — With people stuck at home, bored and perhaps lonely, a new furry friend may seem like just the thing. Area animal shelters and humane societies are reporting an increase in people looking to adopt cats and dogs while Michigan is under a stay-at-home order.

To encourage adoption, the Bissell Pet Foundation is extending its Empty the Shelters event to help cover costs.

One pet looking to find a home is Cruiser, a large, black pitbull mix who has spent three of his four years of life at the Muskegon Humane Society after coming to West Michigan from Detroit. He has been with other families and returned — not because of aggression or inability to be trained but because he’s just kind of a big, excitable goofball, as shown in a video from the Muskegon Humane Society.

“He just doesn’t have an off switch when he’s playing,” Alexis Ogborn, the executive director of the Muskegon Humane Society said of Cruiser, adding that the big pooch loves the outdoors, hikes and car rides.

Cruiser is well trained, if a bit of a pistol. Somewhere, Humane Society officials believe, is the right home for him.

“If he can be with an experienced owner who has time and wants to keep him active, he’ll be the best companion anyone could ask for,” Ogborn said. “We don’t want to just give him out to anybody. We want to make sure that this time, it’s going to be his forever.”

>>Online: Find a pet at the Muskegon Humane Society

In Kent County, the shelter would normally be filled to capacity. But in part because of reduced demand and because of limited staffing at the shelter, it is housing about a third the number of pets it generally does.

“Even though we don’t as many as we normally do, I think it’s good to get them out of here,” said Namiko Ota-Noveskey, program supervisor Kent County Animal Shelter.

>>Online: Find a pet at the Kent County Animal Shelter

The shelters are normally open for people to come in and look around at the pets. But to limit interactions, prospective owners are asked to go online, fill out an application and make an appointment.

“It really is a great time to add a pet to your family, it’s just a matter of us being prepared enough and to be able to facilitate adoption,” Ogborn said.

Helping with overflow are volunteers who take in animals as “fosters,” allowing for fewer staff members at the shelter. It’s a new practice in Kent County.

“If there’s anything that’s good that’s come out of it is that now we have foster programs,” Ota-Noveskey said.

Many of the temporary foster homes become permanent.

“A lot of our fosters are now available with their newfound time at home so that’s been super helpful,” Ogborn said. “That’s also resulted in a lot of foster failures, so a lot of those families are choosing to keep their fosters, so that’s great, too.”

Bissell’s annual Empty the Shelters usually takes place over one weekend. This year, it begins Saturday and runs more than a week through May 17. Participating shelters will have reduced adoption fees of $25 for dogs, which will be up to date on shots and spayed or neutered.

While this is a good time for people to bond and spend time with their new pets, shelters warn new owners need to prepare for when they have to go back to the office.

“People are home all the time and it could be a drastic change when they start to go back to work,” Ota-Noveskey said.

She suggested that people try to create a routine where the dog is left alone for period of time.

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