MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. — “There’s been a national trend among shelters that we are reflecting as well and that adoptions have been slightly down while fostering has been way up,” Hans Wohlgefahrt said.
Wohlgefahrt is with Manatee County Animal Services. He says fostering and adoptions were looking good in March and April during the shutdown, but since Florida started reopening and people started heading back to work, they are now seeing a dip.
“These are scary times that we are going through and for people that are alone or people who are working from home all the time, to have a pet by your side is such a nice comforting thing,” Wohlgefahrt said.
That's the selling point at Manatee County Animal Services.
Cat adoptions have been going great, but there's at least 70 dogs in the shelter now looking for someone to love them.
"Our main goal is to always get these animals into forever homes,” Wohlgefahrt said. "I know that joy of adopting."
He adopted his dog Auggie three years ago from Manatee County Animal Services. He was a stray.
“I had just lost my previous dog and I was just waiting for the right match and I instantly fell in love and he’s turned out to be a great dog,” Wohlgefahrt said.
But if you're not ready to make that kind of commitment, fostering is also an option.
“I know what it is to have responsibility of owning a dog and I’m just not prepared to do that and so I wanted companionship and to help dogs find their forever homes and I felt like fostering was a very good way to do that,” Victoria Wenners said.
She’s been fostering a dog names Lollipop for the last four months.
"We still see fostering as a critical program for us because it really helps us get these animals out of an otherwise stressful shelter environment and into a home,” Wohlgefahrt said.
And it doesn't have to be a long-term thing. Wohlgefahrt says just fostering for a long weekend is a huge benefit for the animal.
Unfortunately, Wohlgefahrt says they've also seen more people surrendering their pets due to the economic impact of this pandemic.
“That's the last thing we want to see is someone bringing back a pet to us because they are having hard financial times,” Wohlgefahrt said. “There's a lot of ways to overcome that."
Wohlgefahrt says the shelter will help by providing pet food and other resources.
And when it comes to fostering, Wohlgefahrt says you shouldn't necessarily be incurring any cost.
"It's just the time and the attention that you need when you have a new pet in your home,” Wohlgefahrt said.
There's at least 50 animals in foster homes right now. One of those foster dogs you may remember meeting a few months ago is Lollipop.
She's still looking for her forever home, but she's enjoying her foster one in the meantime.
"I didn't plan on having Lollipop this long but I didn't know our pandemic, you know that things would be going on this long so I'm just really grateful for her companionship,” Wenners said. “It just really made all the difference in the world.”
It’s a feeling she wants others to feel.
“I don't know what I would have done without having Lollipop here over the past four months,” Wenners said.
If this wasn’t enough to convince you to foster or adopt, Manatee County Animal Services is adding another incentive. For the entire month of August adoption fees will be waived to encourage people to find a new pet.
The shelter has had to get creative about adoption procedures to make sure it’s safe amid coronavirus.
There’s also an online reservation system for adoptions. It’s now an appointment-based method to go visit the shelter.
“To make that reservation they need to fill out a short profile letting us know a little bit about them so when our staff is able to meet with the potential adopter, they have some background already,” Wohlgefahrt said.
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