Houston News : Houston-area animal shelters in urgent need of fosters due to coronavirus threat

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Houston-area animal shelters are in urgent need of fosters after reporting increased intakes, fewer adoptions and fewer fosters as the coronavirus makes its way across the region.

Houston-area animal shelters are in urgent need of fosters after reporting increased intakes, fewer adoptions and fewer fosters as the coronavirus makes its way across the region.

Photo: Courtesy Best Friends Animal Society

Photo: Courtesy Best Friends Animal Society

Houston-area animal shelters are in urgent need of fosters after reporting increased intakes, fewer adoptions and fewer fosters as the coronavirus makes its way across the region.

Houston-area animal shelters are in urgent need of fosters after reporting increased intakes, fewer adoptions and fewer fosters as the coronavirus makes its way across the region.

Photo: Courtesy Best Friends Animal Society

Houston-area animal shelters in urgent need of fosters due to coronavirus threat

While the spread of the novel coronavirus has impacted nearly all facets of everyday life, from bar and club closures, restaurant restrictions, school district closures, less traffic on usually crowded Houston roads, churches going digital, the homeless, the economy and even real estate, one huge and vulnerable population has been affected as well – Houston’s shelter animals.

Houston-area animal shelters are reporting increased intakes, fewer adoptions and fewer fosters as the coronavirus makes its way across the region, according to officials Best Friends Animal Society, an animal welfare organization working that advocates for no-kill policies. Coupled together, these factors have led to area shelters facing near capacity levels that could lead to dangerous overcrowding.

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Another result of the coronavirus is that some shelter’s out-of-state transport partners are no longer accepting animals, Kerry McKeel, Houston Program Manager for Best Friends Animal Society, said in a statement.

“Our local municipal shelters see high volumes of animals come through their doors every day. Harris County Animal Shelter and BARC have a combined intake of nearly 40,000 animals each year,” McKeel said. “One way we support lifesaving efforts is by working collaboratively with them to transport animals to out-of-state rescue partners that have the desire and capacity to bring more animals into their programs.”

This is adversely impacting live outcome rates at area shelters, she added.

“During times of isolation or uncertainty, a lot of people don’t want to adopt animals because [they] don’t want to take on an additional commitment to your family,” said Dr. Karen Wu, Zoonosis Veterinarian for Harris County Public Health/Harris County Animals Shelter. “So we are having decreased adoptions and which combined with increased intakes leads us to a population problem.”

Wu, whose work involves informing the public of rabies cases, serving as a disease expert for veterinarians and tracking shelter disease, said overcrowding at shelters can lead to increased risk of disease among animals.

“We always have a lot of animals and when you have a stressful situation the animals can get sick,” Wu said.

All of this has created an urgent need for fosters. Now, Houston-area shelters are taking several steps to combat high intakes and increase fostering during the coronavirus pandemic.

Facilities such as the Harris County Animal Shelter and Fort Bend County Animal Shelter are offering curbside foster services that allow residents from surrounding counties to pick up a pup without leaving their cars. Fort Bend is also offering virtual adoption tours in addition to reduced prices on adoptions.

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BARC Animal Shelter is currently offering 50 percent off the price of adoptions through the end of March and is in need of crate donations for fosters. The shelter has cancelled offsite adoptions and volunteer orientations and is reducing intake hours to three days a week. The Houston Society for the Prevention of Cruelty of Animals (SPCA) announced it will accept visitors and potential adopters by appointment only through March 31.

Across town in Montgomery County, the county shelter is taking measures to limit intakes and is suspending non-emergency calls. Conroe’s animal shelter shortly followed suit and has locked its doors to allow only two to four people in at a time and is limiting its number of intakes.

Harris County’s Animal Shelter has not made any drastic changes such as reducing intake hours, according to Eddie Miranda of the Harris County Public Health. Miranda said the shelter has been fluctuating between 250 to 300 animal intakes over the last week or so and is expecting to see another spike soon. The shelter can comfortably care for around 200 animals, he said.

“Fostering is always a bigger challenge for us,” Miranda said. “If residents have that option to care f0r an animal temporarily, we can work with them to assist them.”

Aside from helping save a life and alleviate a shelter, fostering an animal will keep residents busy while they are self-isolating or quarantined. 

“There is nothing better than working from home with a furry co-worker or sharing your staycation with a companion sure to be a source of entertainment and companionship,” McKeel said. “If you have thought of adopting or fostering now is the time to do it.”

 

As of late Monday night, there are a reported 29 confirmed cases in the Houston area and the first reported death in Texas. Despite reports of a dog in Hong Kong testing “weak positive” for COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus, pets are not considered a source of infection, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

 

“The current working stance of most public health officials is that COVID-19 cannot be transmitted from animals to people and domestic animals are not a risk,” Wu said. 

 

Wu said while it is widely believed that animals, more specifically bats, are the origin of the novel coronavirus, “the verdict is still out.” Despite that so much is still unknown about COVID-19, Wu stressed that the Hong Kong case is so far the only known incident involving an animal with COVID-19, and that it’s unlikely for a shelter pet to transmit the disease to a foster or potential adopter. 

 

“We really want to assure people with pets that their relationships with their dogs and cats should remain unchanged and it’s not only safe to keep them in the home, but also beneficial, as they can serve as a source of comfort during a crisis,” McKeel said. “The companionship of pets has been shown to reduce stress and lower anxiety, helping people to feel calmer and more secure when the news from the outside world is distressing.”

To adopt or temporary, emergency foster an animal in your community contact:

Editor’s Note: Animal population numbers are courtesy of the Best Friends Animal Society. 

PETS OF THE WEEK: Be sure to click through the photos above for a look at the pets from the Harris County Animal Shelter that currently need homes or fosters. The Harris County Animal Shelter is located at 612 Canino Road, Houston. Adoption hours are from 1-5:30 p.m. Monday-Friday and 11-3:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. To donate to the shelter, click here.

Rebecca Hennes covers community news. Read her on our breaking news site, Chron.com, and on our subscriber site, houstonchronicle.com. | [email protected] 



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Source : chron.com