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WGLT's reporting on the coronavirus pandemic, which began in McLean County in March 2020.

McLean County Pet Shelters See Adoptions Surge

kittens up for adoption
Facebook/Cattails
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Cattails is handling adoptions online only for pickup at Petco during the shelter-in-place order.

As social distancing has limited interaction among humans, more people have found four-legged friends.
Pet shelters in McLean County are enjoying a boom. They also worry the pandemic will ultimately put more companion animals at risk.

Australian shepherd
Credit Jean Ann Hert
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Memphis, an Australian shepherd, is one of Ruby Rescue's recent dogs to find a new home.

Ruby's Rescue and Retreat in rural McLean can hardly keep its kennels stocked.

“We have adopted out a lot of dogs these last few weeks,” owner Jean Ann Hert beamed.

Hert said she has found homes for more than three dozen dogs in three weeks since the shelter-in-place order. That's about double what she typically sees.

Hert figured with everyone staying home, this is the perfect time to train a new dog.

“The whole family is together, so it’s something fun for them to do,” Hert said. “We’ve had a lot of dogs come here and there are here for a few days, just long enough to get vetted and then they get adopted. It’s been great.”

The same is true for cats. Gretchen Reid is a veterinarian who runs Cattails, a cat rescue shelter in LeRoy. Reid said cat adoptions were slow at first. Cattails' adoption service at the Petco in Normal closed because of the pandemic. Customers now have to choose a pet online, then pick it up at the store.

Reid said she worries some families who want a cat now may lose interest when life gets back to normal or worse, won't be able to afford a pet.

“That’s our main concern right now is that people that already own pets are going to find themselves in financial hardship or they are not able to afford groceries and so they can’t but cat food or they can’t buy cat litter or dog food and they may end up having to relinquish that pet,” Reid said.

Reid said she is considering asking for cat food donations she could give to an owner struggling to make ends meet. She also said her shelter will take back a pet, no questions asked.

Many veterinarians have stopped elective surgeries to save use of personal protective equipment. Spaying and neutering are elective. Cats breed basically year-round. Reid said she worries the cat population will surge and her shelter will have more cats than it can keep.

“That’s the hardest part. That takes a toll on us physically and emotionally as well,” Reid said. “It’s definitely concerning for me that we are going to be overwhelmed very quickly.”

Dogs don't breed year-round by the way.

Hert said she too has concerns the economic shutdown could cause financial hardship and keep families from adopting. She hasn't seen that yet.

“No one that has adopted has expressed concerns with the adoption fees. People are still donating to the shelter. I expected that donations would slow down because of people being out of work but that has not been the case.”

Hert charges $200 for an adoption, $250 for a pure breed. The unstable economy could soon make it more difficult to sell families on the idea of adding to their family. Hert said she'll enjoy this while it lasts.

She said running a shelter can be a stressful 24-7 job, especially when you have to make sure volunteers practice social distancing, but Hert said one thing makes it all worthwhile.

“It is the most rewarding thing to see these dogs find homes, especially the homes that have kids that are happy to have their new puppies,” Hert said.

Hert said golden retrievers and goldendoodles have been most popular and puppies are always a favorite.

The American Humane Society recommends having a preparedness plan for your pet. Identify someone who could take care of them if you become hospitalized. The CDC has said you can't get the coronavirus from your pet.

We’re living in unprecedented times when information changes by the minute. WGLT will continue to be here for you, keeping you up-to-date with the live, local and trusted news you need. Help ensure WGLT can continue with its in-depth and comprehensive COVID-19 coverage as the situation evolves by making a contribution.

Eric Stock is the News Director at WGLT. You can contact Eric at ejstoc1@ilstu.edu.
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