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Pet Adoptions Quell COVID-19 Isolation

Marshall County Animal Shelter employee Emily Novotney spends time with a cat up for adoption at the shelter. (Photo by Scott McCloskey)

WHEELING — While area animal shelters continue dealing with challenges of COVID-19, that hasn’t kept those shelters from helping find homes for their boarders. Adoptions for dogs and cats continue to go well, according to local shelter officials.

Longtime Ohio County Dog Warden Doug McCroskey said while the Ohio County Animal Shelter was closed to the public for a few months following the pandemic’s onset last March, once the shelter reopened its doors in early July, dog and cat adoptions have gone extremely well.

McCroskey said while the pandemic has led more people to adopt because they are working from home or home for other reasons, adoptions actually began to increase at the Ohio County shelter several years earlier due to social media. He credits the rise in adoptions over the past year to both social media and more people being home.

“A lot of people are working from home right now,” McCroskey said.

He believes for the most part that people who are adopting because they’re home more won’t change their minds about that new pet if their working situation changes again in the future. McCroskey said many times when a newly adopted pet “settles in” to a new home, everything is fine and the owners make the proper adjustments.

While adoptions have been “awesome” over the past eight months, McCroskey said it has not come without a variety of new challenges. Shelters must follow all COVID-19 safety rules and regulations — cleaning, mask wearing, and social distancing rules. They also limit the number of people that can visit the shelter at the same time.

Prior to this past Monday, McCroskey said the Ohio County shelter was only allowed to have two groups of two visitors. Now it is permitted to have two groups of four visitors at the same time.

There also have been times throughout the pandemic where he has been required to wear full personal protection equipment while removing a pet from a home of someone diagnosed with COVID-19 and was no longer able to care for it.

“If it was a known COVID residence, we would have to mask up just like the medical people,” McCroskey explained. He said it certainly has been a very unusual time for the shelter over the past year, but with warmer weather around the corner it will make it much easier for people to visit with pets in an outside yard area at the shelter.

For those interested in visiting online with the Ohio County Animal Shelter they can go to their Facebook page at Ohio County Animal Shelter West Virginia, go to Petfinder.com or call 304-547-1013.

The Marshall County Animal Shelter also has seen a jump in animal adoptions since the onset of the pandemic. Shelter Director Brandon Henry also believes adoptions are up mainly due to more people being at home during the pandemic.

Henry said people just seem to figure out a way to make it work with their newly adopted pet, even if they have to return to their original workplace.

The pandemic has brought challenges to the Marshall County Shelter. Henry said shelter staff are required to wear masks and have tried to socially distance themselves from visitors the best they can. All visitors are required to both make an appointment and wear a mask. To visit the Marshall County Animal shelter website go to mcwvanimalshelter.com or call 304-845-9770 to make an appointment.

Belmont County Dog Warden Lisa Duvall echoes other shelter officials’ comments. Adoptions are up at the Belmont County shelter, too.

“There’s a lot more people working from home and there’s children home from school, so people have more time to spend with an animal and get them settled into the home environment,” Duvall said.

She added that it doesn’t take long for people to get attached to a new pet.

“They’re pretty much in love with them after a couple of days or a couple of weeks,” Duvall said, adding that new owners returning pets hasn’t been an issue.

Duvall said that, in addition to the common challenges that have arisen due to the pandemic, it has been hard to adjust to changes in state rules and regulations over the past year.

“But we just adapt as we go along,” she explained. “It’s been working. We just have people do applications online, or if it’s an older person who doesn’t use the computer, we do it over the phone. We get them approved, and we just schedule them to come in.”

The Belmont County shelter tries to schedule appointments so it can maintain social distancing. Those interested in visiting online with the Belmont County Animal Shelter, can visit the website at www.belmontcountyanimalshelter.com or visit Petfinder.com. The shelter’s phone number is 740-695-4708.

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