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Quarantine Companions: Animal Shelters See Increased Interest In Adoptions, Fosters

Forced to stay home, Western Carolinians are choosing to add a companion to their quarantine.

Like those who have the option to do their jobs remotely, Leah Craig Fieser  is spending more time at home. That’s why she and her family decided now is the perfect time to add another dog to the household. They already have two dogs and a cat. 

“We thought, 'well, what better time? We’re home more than ever.' We can really see how things are going, how the dog's adjusting...and how is the cat adjusting to the new dog?," Feiser said. 

Fieser’s job is dedicated to getting pets into loving homes  -- she’s executive director of Brother Wolf Animal Rescue in Asheville. But it turns out, many Western Carolina residents are similarly deciding to add furry companions to their quarantine spaces. 

“We can’t get the animals in fast enough, which is a wonderful problem to have," Fieser said. "Last week, we went to a rural shelter to pick up six dogs, four were adopted in three hours.”

Because of the state stay-at-home order, a majority of shelters, particularly in rural counties, have closed or limited services to emergencies only. Brother Wolf is stepping in for those facilities by taking in dogs and cats from the state’s Westernmost counties and even across state lines from Tennessee. 

“We’re getting to help shelters in communities that we haven’t been able to go to before because usually we have such an overwhelming number of pets to help in Buncombe County and in the counties that surround Buncombe County that we're kind of overwhelmed by that need on any given day in normal circumstances," Feiser said. 

The Asheville Humane Society is also closed and not processing adoptions, but it's similarly experiencing an increase in interested foster families. The AHS says it's received more than 600 inquiries during the Stay-At-Home order. 
"While we don't necessarily track the number of foster applications that we get in from year to year, 600 plus is definitely out of the norm, especially in such a short time frame," Lisa Johns, chief operations officer, said in an email statement. "And 83 percent of those applicants were new foster families for us."

Brother Wolf has reduced its staff inside the shelter to respect social distancing. Those interested in adopting are now required to book an appointment, sometimes days in advance.

While the shelter has seen a higher than usual response in adoptions and foster homes, Brother Wolf is preparing for a wave of people forced to give up their pets, due unemployment. 

"As the economic situation in the country impacts more and more people, living through weeks and months, we think that we might possibly see an increase in owner surrenders because people might not be able to afford to continue to care for their pets, or perhaps their living situation will change," Fieser said. 

That’s why the shelter and other animal rescue organizations like the Humane Society are increasing efforts to keep pets in their current homes during the pandemic. The ASPCA and Meals on Wheels of Asheville Buncombe County are providing free pet food to those who’ve fallen on hard times. 

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