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Dogs become quarantine companions

Although the pandemic has brought hardships for many, one group of furry friends has seen a bright side to the shutdowns and social distancing associated with the global health crisis: dogs waiting to be adopted at the Southside Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA).

According to Francee Schuma, assistant director of Southside SPCA, the organization had 103 dog adoptions from March 17 to June 10 of this year compared to 62 adoptions during that same period in 2019.

Schuma said the dramatic increase can likely be attributed to several factors, including a change in SPCA protocol that involved performing the pet adoptions strictly outdoors and following distance guidelines.

She said for many, the pandemic was an ideal time to bring a new dog home. Many area residents were looking for some extra companionship in a socially distant world, and people also had more free time to devote their attention to new pets.

“They had the time. They had the ability to acclimate animals and offer them more attention.”

Schuma said cat adoptions unfortunately saw a decline during the pandemic, which may be the result of social distancing restrictions. Most of SPCA’s feline adoptions are done inside the center or at an adoption stand at PetSmart in Richmond, but no adoptions were performed inside SPCA’s building, located in Prince Edward County, during the shutdown.

“As we know, people weren’t going in stores, so we attribute that to the decline in cat adoptions.”

Schuma said cat adoptions are beginning to increase now that Phase 2 of Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s reopening plan for the state is enacted and more public spaces are opening back up.

Schuma added that most of Southside SPCA’s programs offered to help with the care of pets, such as their pet pantry, were able to continue during the pandemic, although new strategies, such as leaving food outside for pickup, had to be implemented.

SPCA is also utilizing some new strategies of helping animals and their owners in a time when many veterinary offices are operating under reduced hours, including paying for PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) to bring a mobile spay and neuter bus to the Keysville Industrial Park June 19.

Like Southside SPCA, Schuma said numerous organizations from across the country have reported unprecedented pet adoptions during the COVID-19 pandemic. She said she believed the trend may continue upward in the near future, and she has not yet seen a drop in dog adoptions.

Schuma added she did not believe the increase in pet adoptions would later result in an increase in pets being surrendered back over to shelters, as Southside SPCA works hard to council adopters and make sure they are ready for the responsibilities.

“I think this trend is going to continue for a while.”

She said the organization will be waiting at least another month to consider holding large-scale adoption events. In the meantime, outside adoptions have been a safe and very successful way to make sure pets are still finding new homes.

Schuma said while Southside SPCA would love to have more volunteers at the shelter, now is not the time. She added the demand for pet adoptions usually far outweighs the amount of pets up for adoption, and asked that those interested in adopting be patient during the process.

Those interested in helping can make a difference by offering canned dog or cat food donations, shopping at or donating to the Keysville Tailwaggers Thrift Store, joining the COOLE Committee fundraiser group or donating old bedding/newspapers. Items not used by SPCA are shared with local animal control groups.