- Americans are being encouraged to practice social distancing, to work from home, and even to self-isolate amid the coronavirus pandemic, which will leave many without human contact for extended periods of time.
- Although people might not be able to see other humans, it's actually a great time to adopt or foster an animal, according to experts from shelters.
- Kitty Block, the president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, and Temma Martin, a PR representative from the Best Friends Animal Society, told Insider that fostering can save lives as shelters fall on hard times during the pandemic.
- "Companion animals are named that for a reason," Block said. "They provide comfort."
- Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.
As the coronavirus continues to spread across the world, people are being encouraged to practice social distancing.
Although these new practices will ultimately help the health of the world at large, some are already struggling with the lack of social interaction.
Those who live alone and are working remotely are particularly at risk of suffering from loneliness and a decline in mental health.
If you're working from home for the foreseeable future, it's a great time for you to foster a pet
One of the main reasons people don't foster is the fear that they won't be home enough to give the pet a good life.
But government officials are recommending Americans stay home as much as possible to combat the spread of the coronavirus, so bringing a pet into your home during this time makes sense.
Plus, animals are known to help improve people's mental health, which could be necessary during a time of isolation.
"They help alleviate some of the stress and tedium of being in your home without being able to leave it," Kitty Block, the president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, told Insider of companion animals like cats and dogs.
"Companion animals are named that for a reason," she said. "They provide comfort."
Temma Martin, a representative from the Best Friends Animal Society, echoed Block's sentiments. "For many people who are working remotely from home for the first time, the isolation may be difficult to adjust to," she said. "Having a pet for company may make them happier, more comfortable, and even more productive."
"We're all experiencing some heightened anxiety right now," Block added. "Especially people who are isolated or are alone and really can't go out right now, animals are the only companions they have."
Fostering can also help shelters that are struggling right now
Shelters are bracing themselves for an increase in intakes amid the pandemic.
"Animal welfare experts anticipate that communities may see a surge in the number of pets entering shelters as the spread of COVID-19 affects the finances, health, and safety of pet owners, shelter staff and volunteers, animal control officers, and other animal welfare professionals," Martin said.
"As more people practice social distancing, we can expect that adoption traffic will slow in the near future and hamper lifesaving efforts," she added. "Having fewer outlets for live outcomes is one reason why limiting the number of pets coming into our shelters is critical."
"We've put the call out to our memberships to say if you can foster this is a great time to do it," Block said, as they need people to bring animals into their homes so the shelters don't become overcrowded.
"Especially when people become ill and can't care for their animals, they're ending up in the shelters," she added.
She told Insider the worst-case scenario for shelters would be having to close.
"There are animals that are wholly dependent on people caring for them," Block also said.
"I know there's a lot going on, and people are obviously and rightfully worried and very concerned about family and friends. But they can't neglect the animals that are in their care."
If you do decide to foster, make sure you're ready to bring an animal into your home
An animal is like a new family member, and they have their own set of needs that anyone fostering will have to consider, even during the coronavirus pandemic.
"It's important not to foster just for this moment," Block told Insider, encouraging people to think of what kind of pet would best suit their family's needs long-term.
If you know you want a low or high-energy pet, that's something you should discuss with the staff at your local shelter.
"With shelters, they already know the temperament of the animal," Block said, which can be helpful as you think about what kind of animal to bring into your home.
They can also tell you if an animal gets along well with children, or if they require any additional care.
If you're an experienced foster pet-parent, Martin said to be prepared for some changes to how the process works.
"Our advice would be to be patient and understand that we're all trying to keep up with this rapidly evolving situation, so the systems we had established for meeting pets, adopting, and fostering have all changed in the last week," she said.
"Meet-and-greets may now take place virtually by webcam and online meeting programs, and pick up of pets may take place by drive-through or drop off."
If you can't foster, there are other ways to help shelters during the pandemic
Shelters across the country are going to be in need of supplies and help over the coming weeks.
"They might need people to walk the animals, especially if there's a crowding situation," Block said.
"They might just need food. It'll not only help the shelter, but it'll help you too," Block added, noting that the interaction with the animals will get you out of the house and give you a sense of companionship.
Both Martin and Block encouraged people to reach out to their local shelters to find out what they might need.
"Donations are always welcome, but each animal group will have its own specific needs, which may change daily or hourly," Martin said.
"In times like these, it just shows the bond we have with our companion animals," Block said. "We can celebrate that, especially in times of crisis."
You can find out more about fostering through the Humane Society here and Best Friends here.
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