Pet adoptions desperately needed as coronavirus limits shelter care

Israelis are staying home due to unemployment and restrictions, which might mean more adoptions - but a dramatic drop occurred instead. And some staff are quarantined and without volunteer help.

A dogwalker seen leading his bicycle and dogs  on haBima square in Tel Aviv,  January 15, 2020 (photo credit: MIRIAM ALSTER/FLASH90)
A dogwalker seen leading his bicycle and dogs on haBima square in Tel Aviv, January 15, 2020
(photo credit: MIRIAM ALSTER/FLASH90)

As the novel coronavirus plagues the planet, animal shelters across the country are desperately searching for adopters for their four-legged friends. Despite a recent spike in adoptions having been recorded at most organizations, they are in need of families to take in new animals as their staff is shrunken down to the bare minimum.

Unemployment in Israel has spiked and the restrictions due to the virus have become more strict, meaning that more and more Israelis are staying home. This provides the ideal conditions for bringing home a new pet. However, a dramatic drop in adoptions occurred as the first restrictions were announced.
"There was a drastic drop in people entering the website, for about two weeks," Dr. Liat Morgan, a veterinarian who created the Israeli website Yad 4, told The Jerusalem Post. Yad 4 is a database for non-profit animal care organizations and local shelters to post animals currently up for adoption. The name apparently is a take-off on the popular Yad 2 website, Morgan's concentrating on our mostly four-legged friends.
"The organizations and shelters began posting that there are no adoptions, the situation is difficult, people do not want to foster animals," she explained.
However, soon after this two-week drop, numerous organizations reported an increase in adoptions. "There is a rise in adoptions, both because people were told that they can go outside if its to take a dog out on a walk and because they were told that dogs and cats cannot catch the virus," Yael Arkin, CEO of Let Live, told the Post. Let Live is an Israeli non-profit organization working towards improving the care of animals and advancing their rights.
However, this rise is not enough. As the country faces more and more shutdowns, organizations and shelters are limited to a small group of paid staff, since bringing volunteers in has become off-limits. The staff they do keep struggle to keep up with the workload as more and more dogs and cats come in.
"People feel pressure, and so we have more requests from people to take their dogs," Arkin explained.
IN ADDITION, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) Israel reported a dramatic 30% increase in animal abandonment throughout the country, explaining that it is most probably stimulated by financial fears.
Daphna Deouell, spokesperson for SOS Pets -- a non-profit organization aimed at improving the conditions of homeless dogs and cats -- told the Post that the new guidelines are limiting adoption days as well. "We used to work by regular adoption days on Fridays and Saturdays," she explained. "People could come and meet the dogs, speak with advisors and see that it's suitable to them. We cannot do those any longer, so adoptions are one-on-one. All of our dogs are online and on our new app. We do it over the phone, with the potential adopters meeting the dogs in their foster homes.
"It means far less adoptions, but there are requests," she admitted.
The need for people to come out and adopt animals, according to Morgan, is "nevertheless big because volunteers currently cannot work at shelters, so there is a very serious personnel issue."
"This is a big harm to us, because on the one hand we have 450 animals that are with us at every moment, in our care center or our medical centers, and on the other hand we are lacking in employees," Arkin explained. "We are trying to continue and rescue animals."
Let Live faced a particularly difficult crisis when staff members from their Ramat Gan facility were forced into quarantine. "One of our employees tested positive for coronavirus," Arkin told the Post. " Eight people are in quarantine. We are just trying to survive."
HOWEVER, adoption during this time is ideal. "This is the perfect time to adopt," Deouell said. "Everyone is at home. Even emotionally, adopting a dog or a cat could be good for people stuck at home."
"Yesterday at the shelter, a man came and said that they've thought for a while that they want to adopt another dog, and each time they think it [isn't suitable]. But now, they both work from home and believe it's an ideal time so that they can be home and see that he gets along with the dog they already have," Arkin said.
"It is important to understand that we are calling people to come and adopt dogs, but this is nevertheless a commitment for a lifetime," Morgan warned.
She explained that as a veterinarian, she has been working with others in her field for the past two years on a study that follows adoptions in Israel. "We have seen that every dog, on average, passes through two pairs of hands. A dog, at the average age of one year and seven months, is oftentimes simply abandoned," she explained. "People don't know what they are getting into. It is therefore important for people to think if they are ready for this commitment, whether it be financially, or whether it be the amount of time needed."
SOS Pets, SPCA Israel and Let Live all explained that most of their funding has been cut due to a drop in donations. "We've been harshly harmed because 70% of our funding is through donations and people are cancelling their [regular] payments," Arkin explained. "We have no support from the government. Animals are not at the top of the priority list. We ask that people try to help as much as possible."
SPCA chairperson Hilma Shmoskowitz, asked that people "continue to support" the organization "with donations so that we can pass the coronavirus crisis."
"The collapse of this institution is a disastrous fate for dogs, cats and the entire public," she concluded. "Don't let that happen."