Dogs have always been a man’s best friend, but owning a furry companion has taken on an entirely new meaning during the COVID-19 pandemic. Dogs provide love and comfort to humans, and we’ve known for years that they have a positive effect on our mental health.
A study done in 2012 found that dogs reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, encourage exercise, and ease loneliness. With 2020 being one of the most lonely and unprecedented years to date, it’s no surprise that dog adoption rates are skyrocketing.
In the first few months of the pandemic, shelters across the country saw a boom in fostering animals. Kelly Dicicco, who works for the ASPCA Adoption Center, told Newsweek that they saw a 70 percent increase in pets going into foster homes in the first few weeks of stay-at-home orders in both Los Angeles and New York City. She also told the publication that there was “an increase of around 400 percent when compared with 2019 in the amount of people who completed the online foster application during the first two months of the pandemic.”
On April 5, Chicago Animal Care and Control shared on their Facebook page that for the first time ever, they were out of adoptable animals. “We’ve never typed those words before,” they wrote. “We are amazed at the outpouring of people wanting to help during this time.” A few days later, Wired reported that the Riverside County Animal Shelter in California had the same wonderful problem: the shelter was completely empty. As we all went into isolation, rescue animals went into loving homes.
According to Megan Mueller, an assistant professor at Tufts University, the instinct to turn to pets during COVID-19 is backed by science. She told the magazine TuftsNow in March that research has shown that animals help older adults cope better with social isolation, and recommended that everyone spend some extra time with their pet as stay-at-home orders began.
“A lot of us are connecting remotely with other people right now, and that’s great,” she told TuftsNow. “But pets are physically present in a way that other forms of social and emotional support aren’t these days for many people, and there’s really something to having that tactile component of petting or touching a pet.”
Chicago resident Shaun Rajah couldn’t agree with Mueller more. He adopted a dog– a Corgi and Jack Russell mix– during quarantine and has loved every minute of it. “He has been the best companion a man can ask for,” Rajah said. “Living alone, I made the best decision and it’s been incredible thus far.”
Unlike Rajah, many people who weren’t ready to take the plunge and adopt a dog during quarantine elected to foster one instead. The Labelle Foundation is a foster-based nonprofit organization in Los Angeles that rescues, rehabilitates, and advocates for dogs. According to their website, the Labelle Foundation team has more than quadrupled in size from 2019 to 2020, and their foster and adoption networks have “grown leaps and bounds.” Their Instagram account (@thelabellefoundation) has amassed 260,000 followers and counting and is filled with pictures of every dog that is available to foster or adopt.
The Labelle Foundation is known for its foster program, which puts rescue dogs in temporary homes to acclimate to people before finding a forever family through adoption. According to their website, in order to foster a dog you must live in Los Angeles, be willing to drive the dog to vet appointments, have a safe and loving home, and not leave the dog unattended for more than four hours. The foundation has said they have received a high volume of foster applications due to COVID-19, so it takes them some time to sort through all the applications.
Kate Salerno, a junior at the University of Southern California, is one of the many Angelenos who has gotten involved with The Labelle Foundation amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Salerno began to foster dogs for The Labelle Foundation in September 2020 and says it’s an incredibly rewarding experience. As a New York native living in Los Angeles, Salerno says fostering dogs has helped her adjust to pandemic life away from home. “Fostering dogs during this pandemic has made me a lot less lonely and brought me a great deal of joy,” Salerno explained. “Being able to spend time with and nurture these amazing puppies has been rewarding and filled my days with happiness… it is a truly uplifting experience for which I am so grateful.”
While no one can be sure how long this trend will continue, what’s important is how much progress has been made thus far. As Kitty Block, the president and CEO of the Human Society of the United States, puts it, “as long as foster numbers stay high and overall population in the shelters stay low, we’re on the right track.”
Brett Chody Trends Contributor Polo Lifestyles 2021