With the state of Illinois preparing for lockdown, Vicky Pasenko, co-founder and co-president of the Evanston Animal Shelter said that if the governor’s orders allow people to get to the shelter, then the staff can provide them with animals to foster.
Bridget Bittman, head of marketing at The Anti-Cruelty Society said physical adoptions and fosters will end after Friday to minimize contact with the public. Physical adoptions and fosters will take place by appointment Friday at the shelter’s River North location until 7 p.m.
The PetSmart location in the South Loop neighborhood near downtown Chicago is also open Friday with puppies and cats for adoption.
“We will have virtual training sessions for fosters who were already signed up. Those who have completed foster orientation, can pick up the pets through curbside pickup in River North,” said Bittman.
Ellie Feldmann, of Uptown, has fostered more than 80 dogs. Current foster dog Riley joins the two resident dogs, Bella and Lexi.
The 43-year-old Feldmann works for a nonprofit and teaches graduate school at the Chicago School of Psychology.
Riley, a year-old shepherd mix, has been in her home since March 7.
Feldmann has fostered a dog from PAWS Chicago about every other month. She said foster dogs normally stay for about a week or two, but the coronavirus pandemic has extended Riley’s stay with her.
“There is no specific time frame at this point; it’s kind of open-ended. We’ve been asked to keep her an additional four weeks.”
Across Chicagoland, animals in shelters need homes due to the coronavirus.
Pasenko said she’s noticed an uptick in the number of pets fostered.
Last Friday, Pasenko said the shelter put out a plea for fostering to keep the fewest number of animals within the shelter itself.
Many other local shelters are doing the same thing because they don’t know how many more animals will be affected by the evolving coronavirus and want to limit the number of staff members going in to take care of the animals.
Clare Hamilton, The Anti-Cruelty Society foster coordinator said, “We have had a few people surrender their pets to our Safe Program and Emergency Relief Program.”
Hamilton said the shelter has over 200 animals and has placed over 80 animals in homes since last weekend.
Evanston Animal Shelter, which takes in about 500 animals a year, has capacity to hold about 18 dogs and 30 cats; it has placed 10 dogs and 14 cats in homes.
Both Hamilton and Pasenko said area animal shelters don’t know what is coming next. The biggest concern is that shelters don’t know exactly how many more animals will need to be placed due to the coronavirus.
Hamilton urges people to look at shelters in their neighborhood to see how they can help.
“If anyone is able to help, by all means please help because our animals definitely depend on it,” she said.
Pasenko also warned about the upcoming increase in the number of kittens in the next coming weeks because so many are born in the spring.
“We definitely need more people to keep filling out foster applications, not just at Evanston Animal Shelter,” she said. “This is probably nationwide, but certainly in the Chicago area. There are a number of animal shelters: Some are filled to the brim and need to get animals out desperately. And others have been pretty successful about getting animals out.”
“Worst case scenario, (the pets) will all come back in a few weeks and will have had a break from the shelter, and that’s a wonderful thing,” says Pasenko.
Fostering helps shelters know more about the animal’s behavior, as a shelter is a stressful place to live, according to Pasenko.
She said, “We see the animal in this stressful situation, and often it gets into a home, where it can relax, and it’s a totally different animal than what we’ve seen at the shelter. And we get really good feedback from the foster owners about the animal’s behavior."
If you’re unemployed or if your financial situation is of concern right now because of the economy, you can take an animal for the short term and have that companionship and not worry about additional costs. Also, if you don’t want to walk outside or want a smaller animal, you can foster bunnies and guinea pigs.
Some animal shelters are closed to the public and are providing curbside service for fostering pets. If you are interested in fostering a pet, visit the shelter’s website for the most up-to-date information.
“It’s a perfect time to test out how your life fits with a pet,” said Feldmann. “And I think, with the level of anxiety overall in the world right now, cuddling up with a pet, you have something else to think about, something else to do and a different priority.”
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