Adopting A Dog Amid COVID-19

ALEXANDRIA, VA — Aug. 26 marks National Dog Day, and an increasing number of people are turning to new four-legged friends to fend off loneliness and the abundance of time spent in isolation during the coronavirus pandemic.

In fact, shelters like the Vola Lawson Animal Shelter in Alexandria are seeing a surge in demand for dog adoptions. According to Audrey Alessi, a spokesperson for the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria, the shelter was full of dogs for last year’s National Dog Day. This year, dogs are being adopted quickly, that there were just seven dogs available on Wednesday to meet potential adopters. We’ve shared some of the adoptable dogs in the photo gallery above.

When the shelter closed its doors to the public in March, the Alexandria community stepped up to foster and adopt animals who needed a home. A virtual adoption process was introduced on April 1, followed by in-shelter adoptions by appointment at the start of July. Once those in-person appointments became available in July, adoptions were up 25 percent when compared to July 2019.

“National Dog Day has extra significance this year because of the love and companionship dogs bring to our lives, and we’re glad that so many adopters are welcoming dogs into their families,” said Alessi in an email to Patch. “Having only seven dogs who are available for adoptions allows us to help even more pups who need our help – providing medical care, long walks, time to cool off in our doggy paddle pool and lots of treats until they’re ready to head home with their family.”

To help out this National Dog Day, here are five things to know about adopting a dog during the pandemic:

1) Despite reports from shelters, dog adoptions nationwide are actually down in 2020.

According to an industry report by PetPoint, a data management software used by animal shelters, 32,474 dogs were adopted in July 2020, representing a 22 percent decrease from the previous year. The numbers of dogs adopted in April, May and June of 2020 were also down from 2019.

2) Owner surrenders of dogs are also down amid the pandemic.

Call it an affirmation of our desire to keep four-legged family members nearby during the pandemic, but dog surrenders are also down by about 24 percent this year, according to the same report by PetPoint.

3) There are still plenty of dogs (and cats) taken to shelters that won’t get adopted.

According to data by the ASPCA, 3.3 million dogs are taken into shelters each year, but only 1.6 million are adopted. Also, 44 percent of Americans say they adopted their dog, indicating adoption is the preferred method when it comes to adding a new four-legged family member.

If you’re more of a cat person, the numbers are similar — 3.2 million cats are taken in each year, and only 1.6 million are adopted, according to the ASPCA.

4) Your risk of catching COVID-19 from a new dog is low.

Despite some isolated cases of dogs testing positive for the coronavirus, Dr. Douglas Kratt, president of the American Veterinary Medical Association, recently told Clear The Shelters, “it doesn’t appear that pets are playing a role in spreading the virus.”

While Klatt encouraged potential pet owners to not be fearful, he did advise caution. The AVMA suggests the following guidelines to keep you and your dog safe:

  • Wash your hands after caring for or playing with your pets, and before and after feeding them.

  • Keep their bedding, food and water bowl, and collars and leashes clean.

  • Social distance with your pet from other people and their pets.

5) Reach out to local animal shelters to meet a new pup.

Whether you’re seriously committed to adopting a dog or just thinking about it, the best step forward is to contact a local animal rescue group or shelter to inquire about availability, possible waiting lists, and what is included in the application process.

To start, here are some places around Alexandria to contact:

This article originally appeared on the Del Ray Patch

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