Want to adopt a shelter kitten, dog in California? There's a waiting list
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March, pet rescues and shelters across California have seen kitten and dog adoptions soar to the point that they have waiting lists.
Some adopters, interested in companionship and a stress relief amid the lockdown, are willing to wait weeks for a pet.
A lack of veterinary services and COVID restrictions on opening facilities made wait times to adopt pets even longer.
Dog adoptions quadrupled in spring during the stay-at-home order, said Venus Hocking, manager at Happy Tails Pet Sanctuary in Sacramento. Her pet rescue received 25 to 30 dog adoption applications daily in March.
'Willing to drive ten hours to adopt'
Adoptions slowed by late summer into fall, in part because there are so few dogs, pet rescuers said.
“I have not had a dog since March,” said Renee Estill, director of Raining Cats 'n' Dogs animal rescue group in Redding.
Kittens are in demand, too, Hocking said. Those waiting for a kitten will email her four or five times in a week to see if one is available.
Jamie Hale of Redding said she feels fortunate she only had to wait two weeks to get her kitten in September. Raining Cats 'n' Dogs animal rescue group in Shasta County put her on a short list to help the clinical social worker at Vibra Hospital get some pet-generated stress release.
“I needed someone to welcome me home,” Hale said. "A lot of health care workers are adopting and fostering pets for emotional support.”
“As soon as we started the lockdown, people were willing to drive ten hours to adopt kittens,” Estill said. When he found out he was second in line to adopt a Siamese kitten, an adopter from Nevada offered to pay $400 to the first person in line — a man from Washington — to let him cut ahead. “(The Washingtonian) said, ‘Nope, we’re adopting her. He can keep his $400.’”
Grown cats wait to get adopted
Some pet rescues expanded their service areas to meet demand.
Before the pandemic, Happy Tails’ policy was to adopt pets out only within the greater Sacramento area to allow for follow-ups, Hocking said. After fielding dozens of adoption requests from people living throughout the western U.S. this year, staff expanded their coverage area to include Reno, Tahoe and the Bay Area.
Not all pets are in demand.
While dogs and kittens are out the door quickly, adult cats still wait for homes, rescuers said. That's partly because many people don’t want an adult cat, and because adult cats are so numerous.
Many adult cats were given to shelters when pet owners were hit hard by economic troubles and couldn’t afford to care for them anymore.
Problems getting rescued cats spayed or neutered also slowed their adoption, rescuers said.
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In spring, veterinarians shut their offices for several weeks, so there were no spay or neuters services available, Estill said. “A couple months later there were kittens everywhere.”
Kittens can be adopted “intact” before they reach four months old, the age at which they can be spayed or neutered, Estill said. But California law requires adult cats be spayed or neutered before they are adopted.
Before the pandemic, California vets were barely able to meet demand for spay neuter services, according to Jennifer Scarlett, veterinarian and president of the San Francisco SPCA.
“We are booked out until March, Scarlett said. Because the SCPA has its own spay/neuter clinic, staff are able to prioritize pets in dire needs of homes. “People who have intact (adult) cats, they’re going to rise to the top of our priority list.”
Despite high demand, pets remaining “intact” this winter while waiting for spay/neuter services has pet rescue staff worried another pet baby boom is coming in spring.
“These animals will reproduce,” Scarlett said. Even though adoptions are great today, (we’re) worried about tomorrow.”
Jessica Skropanic is a features reporter for the Record Searchlight/USA Today Network. She covers science, arts, social issues and entertainment stories. Follow her on Twitter @RS_JSkropanic and on Facebook. Join Jessica in the Get Out! Nor Cal recreation Facebook group. To support and sustain this work, please subscribe today. Thank you.