MONTEREY – The pandemic has created uncertainty. Depression, loneliness and even boredom have flooded homes for the past 15 months.
For many, a bright spot during these dark times has come with the promotion and adoption of animals.
The fear when the pandemic hit was that animal shelters would be inundated with people returning animals due to people’s inability to care for their furry friends.
Instead, it has been the opposite over the past year, with adoptions soaring to the point that the Monterey County SPCA would have 20 nominations minutes after posting a photo.
“I think people were looking to help,” said Beth Brookhouser, vice president of marketing for the SPCA. “People needed, wanted, animal comfort, unconditional love in a time that none of us had ever experienced before.
For Carie Broecker, executive director and co-founder of Salinas Animal Shelter, it was no surprise that adoptions and animal care have skyrocketed during the pandemic.
“No, it made perfect sense,” Broecker said. “People were looking for company. It was a good time to bring a pet home so they could transition and get into a routine. People felt helpless. It was something they could give back and nurture. The hardest part was that we couldn’t let them spend time with the animals before adopting them. We had meetings (video) and passed them on. “
It wasn’t just a pandemic that the SPCA and other animal centers had to endure last year. Three forest fires in Monterey County have left more than 1,500 local animals in need of shelter.
Making this more difficult for the SPCA was that they were also forced to evacuate their site just off the Monterey-Salinas highway near Laguna Seca during one of the fires.
The animals were moved to the King City Fairgrounds, Salinas Rodeo Grounds, Marina Riding Center, and Monterey Fairgrounds. Help came from several outlets, including the Salinas Animal Shelter.
“We were just gaining a foothold with the pandemic when the fires started in August,” Broecker said. “We sent our volunteers to the shelters and donated a lot of supplies. There have been heart-wrenching stories of people being forced to surrender animals when their homes burned down.
In addition to the demand for adoptions, Brookhouser and Broecker have both seen a drop in the number of animals abandoned or brought back from abuse.
“The number of dogs coming across the country has declined in the first two months of the pandemic,” Broecker said. “Apart from the fires, surrenders have also decreased.”
Animal food banks have been established for people who need to take care of their pets. The SPCA helped bring 160,000 pounds of food, allowing families to keep their pets.
Broecker said the Salinas Animal Shelter has extended its financial assistance program to pet sitters, normally for low-income homes, to families who were out of work and unwilling to give up their animals.
“The number of requests for assistance has quadrupled,” said Broecker. “We have our own veterinary clinic, mainly for the rescue of dogs. We started to use it more for the community during the pandemic. “
A silver lining in Brookhouser’s mind during a year of unpredictability was that homeless animals found loving homes faster than the SPCA could advertise them. Livestock have also increased.
“A gold nugget in all of this is that people wanted to help and opened up their homes to pets,” Brookhouser said. “We never set a time limit on the adoption of our pets. But we have no shortage of applications. “
As the country slowly emerges from the pandemic, people are starting to return to work. Some new pet owners have worried about how an adopted pet adapts to being home alone after months of stability.
Currently, the SPCA has the only anxiety coach in Monterey County. This trainer seeks to allay those fears and stifle thoughts of your pet being alone eight to ten hours a day.
“Our trainer works with each animal and each family to assess and target their unique individual needs,” said Brookhouser. “She discovers the issues that cause anxiety and works with the family to slowly desensitize the animal to these triggers, to help them become more balanced, comfortable and happy.”
For a business that depends solely on financial support from the community, Brookhouser believes the SPCA has weathered the storm of the pandemic.
“Our donors have been so incredibly supportive of our work,” said Brookhouser. “We rely entirely on the support of the community. We didn’t know what to expect in terms of animal rescue.
As the country continues to open up, adoptions are still strong at the SPCA. Brookhouser says there has been an increase in spayed and neutered pets.
“People are still using our services,” Brookhouser said. “Our wildlife rescues have never slowed down. We don’t see the animals being sent back. And people keep cheering on the animals. “
With families getting vaccinated and summer on the horizon, Broecke predicts that adoptions and foster families will be felt while families take vacations.
“It’s not completely unexpected in the summer normally,” Broecker said. “We usually get lower participation rates because families go on trips. But we think it will resume at the end of the summer. “