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Local Adoptions Returning To Pre-Pandemic Levels

Nine-year-old Molly sits in the backyard of the Chautauqua County Humane Society on Strunk Road. Adoption rates are beginning to return to pre-COVID-19 rates. P-J photo by Cameron Hurst

On any given day, a cacophony of sound fills the walls of the Chautauqua County Humane Society.

It’s the noise of hope.

For the excitement that lives within those barks, “meows” and chirps are that someday soon these temporary tenants of the Strunk Road shelter will find their forever home.

And though that noise has certainly decreased in the weeks since COVID-19 forced much of the nation to shut down, that hope is still alive — adoptions are starting to return to pre-pandemic numbers even though the society is requiring all adoptions to occur by appointment.

“We’re really happy to see our adoption numbers go back to where they were before the pandemic,” said Brian Papalia, community relations director. “Prior to the pandemic, we were doing about 80 adoptions a month. At the lowest point in the pandemic, we had 18 adoptions a month.”

Animals at the Chautauqua County Humane Society are faring well even though the COVID-19 pandemic has limited their time with volunteers. Day-to-day staff have made sure they continue to be loved. P-J photo by Cameron Hurst

Adoptions did continue, Papalia explained, noting that the society had just finished a major adoption event around the time that much of the state was forced to shutdown to help prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“What we’ve done is do adoptions by appointment in one-hour blocks,” Papalia said, noting that this period allows time to go through the standard adoption process as well as sanitize the facilities following the appointment. Staff that come in contact with the public is required to wear a mask as are any adopters.

“A lot of the decrease was reflected in people’s reluctance due to COVID which is perfectly understandable,” he added. “That number started to pick back up in July.”

Nationwide, other animal shelters and adoption centers have seen a similar trend. One such facility in Aurora, Colorado where cat and dog adoptions are slowly trending back up after numbers plummeted in April as a result of a temporary moratorium the city placed on taking in new animals this spring. Staffers adopted out just eight dogs and five cats in the fourth month of this year, which pales in comparison to the roughly 60 dogs and cats the shelter was adopting out in the months leading up to the onset of the pandemic in March, data shows.

But Papalia said there have been other challenges.

“The challenges have been just when it comes to staff, we’ve had to have separate shifts,” he said. “Should something happen with someone coming down with COVID, we want to keep the public safe, so we split up our time here in order to keep both the public and staff as safe as possible.”

Additionally, the dog population has been consistently low, he explained.

“We’ve not had the intake we usually do,” he said, noting that the pandemic has created restrictions on the animals brought to the society from out of state.

Additionally, right before the statewide shutdown, the society helped rescue over 80 cats from a Dunkirk apartment as well as 14 dogs from Panama that were trapped in a trailer. Several of those pets are awaiting court rulings while others aren’t healthy enough and are in need of appropriate socialization before they are ready to be adopted.

“We were faced with some real unique situations right before this,” Papalia explained.

But, morale overall at the Jamestown facility is good and staff have continued to provide their fury friends with enough love and care as they await their next step.

“They’ve been faring well,” Papalia said. “Our Animal Cares staff has done a great job in the interim and even the rest of the staff, we’re doing what we can to bring a dog back to the office with us so they can stretch their legs and have some freedom. With our volunteer program in a different situation right, there’s an impact on how much people time the animals can have, but we’re doing our best to do our best o keep them loved, company and happy.”

“People have commonly asked about the welfare of the animals since this started though,” he said. “People get that notion that they’re stuck in the kennels, stuck in the colony and that’s really not the case.”

Papalia also explained that the society has chosen to change the date for the virtual Walk for Paws event.

“We had planned on doing a purely virtual event on Facebook on Oct. 3,” he said. “Instead, thanks to the folks at the Chautauqua Mall who are hosting a safe, socially-distanced Halloween party on Oct. 31, we’re turning the Walk for Paws into a pet costume parade so we invite people to, while being socially distanced, show off their pets in their costumes and participate in the Walk for Paws.”

He added, “It’s exciting to have an in-person component this year and have a plan for people to do it safely.”

More information can be found at chqhumane.org.

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