Hosting a pet adoption clinic and making sure passers-by don’t crowd around the animals is no easy feat. Jennifer Poltis, founder and president of the Capital District Humane Association, knows this very well.
For the last several months, Poltis’ organization along with many other humane societies and shelters in the area have navigated the pandemic by hosting virtual meetings with possible pet owners. Even in Saratoga, the New York Racing Association is hosting a “Virtual Dog Adoption Series.” And as animal rescuers and those trying to help furry friends find new homes transition to adoption clinics and more in-person activities, they’ve said adoptions — even in the pandemic — have remained more or less the same, despite not as many animals finding their way into their facilities.
“We work with a lot of animal shelters and, during the pandemic, a lot of the shelters with whom we worked were not really seeing animals to rescue, or the normal amount of animals that we would be taking in,” Poltis said. “We still have a lot of animals for adoption… But we found that our numbers of animals were down compared to what they normally would be.”
Similarly, Amy Duskiewick, director of operations for the Animal Protective Foundation in Glenville, said adoption numbers have remained relatively the same despite changes in the process.
During the last few months, the APF has transitioned to Zoom calls with “potential adopters” to showcase our pets prior to adoption, added a “Pet Behavior Hotline” to help owners solve behavioral issues and started to offer delivery for its “Pet Food Pantry” clients to feed animals who may need some extra food.
Duskiewick said that while cat adoptions are completely virtual, dog adopters are scheduled for “a meet-and-greet outside” following an initial counseling call.
“Scheduling appointments and completing counseling virtually has improved our adoption process experience for staff, pets and clients,” Duskiewick said. “Dedicating time to each client for a personal conversation has allowed for better counseling and matchmaking to take place. Additionally, the pets in our care are less stressed due to the decrease in visitors to the facility. This has helped many of our pets settle in faster to find their new family.”
Alison Simpson, events and community relations manager at the Mohawk Hudson Humane Society, said while the pandemic has completely changed the way her organization offers adoptions, when the MHHS opened up adoptions again after having to put them on halt for a period of time, new owners and foster families stepped up big time.
“For a few weeks in March and early April, we halted all adoptions,” Simpson said. “We were in the building as essential staff, but we did not have the public or non-essential coming into the building. We weren’t even able to have our volunteers in the building, and they are a huge part of our success. As the Capital Region began moving through New York State’s different phases of opening, we have been able to restart adoptions, but in a different manner.”
Now, the MHHS operates by appointment only, sanitizing in between meetings, “screening temperature and out-of-area travel, and limiting the number of people that can be in the building at a time.”
“Once we started opening up again for adoptions, people were very eager to do so,” Simpson said. “We are actually having trouble having enough adoption appointments to meet the demand, but we want to make sure everything is cleaned and sanitized between meets. Again, health and safety is paramount, and we hope the public understands that.”
CDHA’s updated pandemic adoption process, too, has been fairly different. CDHA showcases dogs on its website, accepts email applications from possible new owners, sets up appointments with those they felt were good fits for said dog and then scheduling a meeting with the animal and the possible new owners by appointment. The organization then does a vet reference check and “virtual” home tours.
“The downside of that is we love when we’re meeting potential adopters, we like to see the interaction with the animal,” Poltis said. “We want to see if there’s a connection. When you’re dealing strictly with email, you can’t see a response. We only had one instance where the people didn’t want to adopt, but all the other ones were successful.”
CDHA is planning to host an adoption clinic at the Clifton Park Petsmart Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., its second since the start of the pandemic. The event will follow state regulations, Poltis said, so making sure adopters don’t crowd around animals is likely the biggest challenge.
“We’re coming up with a game plan for people attending the clinics to make sure people aren’t crowding around certain dogs and that it’s safe for them to be there,” Poltis said.
NYRA’s dog clinic won’t have to navigate that, as its annual event is virtual for the first time and will last through the Saratoga Race Course 2020 meet until Sept. 7, in partnership with the Saratoga County Animal Shelter and Greyhound Rescue of New York.
As for the APF, Duskiewick said she hopes her organization continues to operate and give animals loving homes despite the ongoing health crisis.
“In the coming months, our focus will continue to be on providing essential services to our community, retaining the positive changes we have implemented during this time, and finding new ways to meet the needs of community pets during these challenging times,” Duskiewick said.
Simpson at the MHHS agrees, saying that August is “Clear the Shelters” month and her organization has “a lot of incredible animals to send home.”
“We hope that people continue to be patient with our scheduling calendar, and understand that the wait is truly for the health and safety of everyone,” Simpson said. “We don’t think that this is something that is going to go away anytime soon, and so we are working on how to keep adoptions happening in our new normal.”