The coronavirus has created some awkward social moments, but Dan Lavato’s recent animal adoption in Boulder takes the cake. The Humane Society of Boulder Valley allowed Dan to play with a pit bull named Bruce in a fenced-in yard outside their headquarters.
But Lovato found himself and his wife wearing masks, communicating with HSBV staff via cell phone.
Finally they got into a groove playing with the pit with a silver mane, who was a long-term shelter resident.
“He is one of the funniest dogs I’ve ever seen in my life. He is such a ham,” gushed Lovato.
Colorado’s stay-at-home order prompted some shelters like Boulder Humane to close. Now, they’re open they’re using a hybrid virtual and in-person meet model for animal adoptions.
As animal shelters approach their busiest season for adoptions in late spring, they’re using new tools and ways to communicate with prospective clientele — like matching people with pets via online surveys or through experiences like the one Lovato had.
HSBV CEO Jan McHugh-Smith said the nonprofit has seen hundreds of adoption applications.
“Anticipating that our safer-at-home period may last longer, people see this as an opportunity to bring an animal into their home while they’re there, get that animal trained and acclimated before they end up going back to work,” McHugh-Smith said.
Nationwide, pet adoption declined 36 percent during the pandemic. Some Colorado shelters remained open, but the adoption process moved slowly. The Dumb Friends League of Denver has moved adoptions completely online. Would-be guardians fill out an online questionnaire and adoption specialists work to match animals with human companions.
“We send them pictures and videos. When we find a connection, we do all of the adoption process virtually. The adopter comes to pick up the animal, they jump into the car or we put the carrier into the car,” said Apryl Steele, president and CEO of the Dumb Friends League in Denver.
Because there aren’t opportunities for an in-person meet, Dumb Friends League offers a full refund of the adoption fee if things don’t work out.
While the process was a bit strange for Carleigh Lider, she found that adoption counselors were pretty good at finding her a match in her new cat, Milo.
“We’re having to adjust to this new way or normal lately, it doesn’t have to be an end to what we normally want to do in life, right?” she said.
South of Denver at the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region, safer-at-home means no more than 10 adopters in the building. Like Dumb Friends League Denver, Pikes Peak continued to adopt during stay-at-home orders in Colorado. But numbers significantly decreased.
Now, like many places, Pikes Peak is seeing pent up demand.
“We’re very happy to see the response from the community. We’ve seen a huge surge in foster applications, which is so wonderful to see the community recognize the need,” said community relations manager Gretchen Pressley.
Many shelters, including Pikes Peak, have beefed up online resources so guardians can begin to train dogs for more separation when their human companions eventually return to the office.
But right now, Dan Lovato sees why many people want to adopt animals under COVID-19 at home restrictions.
“We get them and they get us. It’s a good simpatico relationship,” Lovato said. “We have a lot of fun. We were sitting at home all day. We’ve gone for more walks in the last week than we did in the last month.”