Duluth, Superior pet adoptions rise during pandemic

COVID-19 has changed business at animal shelters and adoption agencies.

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COVID-19 has changed business at animal shelters and adoption agencies.

Some shelters across the country aren’t conducting adoptions due to various coronavirus-related restrictions, but area adoption rates are on the rise.

After Minnesotans began sheltering-in-place, Animal Allies received 150 foster applications, and they completed 29 adoptions in one week, said Michelle Carter, development officer.

The Humane Society of Douglas County saw a few of their animals with long-term medical issues go into foster care and become adopted. And the most notable case:

“We had a hoarding case that involved 17 rabbits, and we adopted them all out in one day, which is unheard of,” said HSDC director Sheila Keup.


Animal Allies has received calls from those who are struggling financially, afraid that they won’t be able to feed their pets.

“We have helped with resources to keep their pet even longer. We also are more than willing to take their animal if that’s where they’re at,” Carter said.

As for operations, Animal Allies and HSDC are conducting no-contact business, which consists of appointment-only, private pet meetings and paperwork completed over the phone.

Shelters on both sides of the border moved their kenneled pets to foster homes when businesses started shutting down.

With a reduced staff, Animal Allies has shifted to address facility, kennel and wall repairs. They’ve painted, serviced cat condos, cleaned the dog trail.

“The need for animal care hasn’t changed, even though it seems like a lot of other things have,” Carter said.

Veterinary clinics had been deemed nonessential, partly in an effort to reserve PPEs for hospitals. But on Monday, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz lifted restrictions on elective vet surgeries , so spay and neuter procedures may resume.

Before that, there was concern about an influx of felines in need.


In the animal shelter world, March and April mark “kitten season,” a highly reproductive time of more surrenders who have never been altered and are now pregnant; and there are increased calls about found litters.

Animal Allies can see 80-150 cats and kittens under their care at once. It was a relief for them that the order was lifted.

“While we certainly don’t want to reduce the available resources for caring for people, spaying and neutering saves the lives of animals,” Carter said.

Scooby's Animal Mission, a foster-based rescue in the Brainerd lakes area, was limited in the number of cats they could take in, and they had to adjust to a foster-to-adopt policy, where adopters were required to sign a contract obligating them to get their animal spayed or neutered when operations resumed.

The catch is they had to adopt to people willing to return for care at a partnering clinic. That gets tricky for people who travel from the Twin Cities, said SAM co-founder Jessica Boyd.

She noticed an increase in adoptions, but said she hopes people are stepping into it for the right reasons. “It's a lifetime commitment,” Boyd said.

Northlanders love their animals, and many think of adoption before purchasing.

You can’t buy puppies from pet stores here, you don’t see much small, local breeding or puppy-mill offerings, and humane education all play a role in generally high numbers.


Add the pandemic, and people have more time to train a pet.

Also, the companionship and therapeutic benefits pets offer are typically more noticeable during times when stress, anxiety and the unknown are prominent. “Having a little furry friend to come snuggle with you and purr on your lap or give you kisses is the best,” said Carter.

Related Topics: PETS
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