Photo courtesy Seattle Humane: A pair of Seattle Humane volunteers hold a pair of puppies outside a shelter van before the coronavirus pandemic. Seattle residents answered the call by animal shelters to foster animals as word of the state-mandated shutdowns spread due to the novel coronavirus outbreak.
Photo courtesy Seattle Humane: A pair of Seattle Humane volunteers hold a pair of puppies outside a shelter van before the coronavirus pandemic. Seattle residents answered the call by animal shelters to foster animals as word of the state-mandated shutdowns spread due to the novel coronavirus outbreak.

Shelters can only handle so many animals at a given time. As initial word of state-mandated shutdowns spread due to the novel coronavirus outbreak, animal shelters put out the call for new foster homes in case shelters were closed or people were unable to keep their pets due to illness or loss of work. National news stories appealed for people to use this unexpected time at home as an opportunity to help an animal in need by fostering or adopting.

Seattle’s response has been remarkable.

Laura Follis, director of marketing for the Progressive Animal Welfare Society, www.paws.org/, which operates a temporarily closed cat adoption center in Wallingford and its main shelter in Lynwood, said interest has exceeded her expectations.

“It’s been an explosion,” Follis said. “It’s wonderful — definitely more than typical, which to me is a statement about our community of people.”

Seattle is a very “animal-friendly” market, Follis said. Many places let employees bring their dogs to work — in Amazon’s case up to 7000 dogs join their people at work every day, she said.

Follis says PAWS is welcoming foster applications, because “spring does not stop.”

“Babies will be born,” she said. “Our hope is to expand our foster network, and we are actively working on that.

Follis said fostering allows shelters and rescues to accommodate special-needs cases, from whole litters and their mothers, to dogs who need behavioral training, or animals healing from a procedure.

As for adoptions, Follis  said, while inventory is lower and the process slowed by the new “appointment-only” system, “as soon as an animal is on the website we get lots of attention.”

Happily, PAWS is not seeing an increase in owner surrenders, Follis said.

“People here will do everything they can to keep their pets,” she said.

Seattle Animal Shelter, www.seattle.gov/animalshelter, in Interbay saw a 50 percent initial drop in adoptions after closing its doors, but since employing an appointment-only system to allow for social distancing, adoptions have picked up and remained steady, Joint Information Supervisor Scott Thomsen wrote in an April 1 email, adding appointments are filling up days in advance.

More than 80 percent of its animals are in foster homes, Thomsen wrote, and there are nine to 10 people working at the shelter, handling animal care, control/dispatch and veterinary services.

At Bellevue’s Seattle Humane, www.seattlehumane.org, the shelter had 1,100 people wanting to foster roughly 200 animals, Social Media Coordinator Brandon Macz said.

“It’s a great problem to have,” he said.

In fact, Seattle Humane temporarily shut down applications after being swamped by 1,000 adoption applications in the first three days of its appointment system.

The majority of their animals are in foster homes, and it is not taking in new animals. The facility made one exception in mid-March to fly in 10 puppies from Oklahoma through its “Lifesaver” program; all 10 were adopted in three days, with both adopters and staff wearing protective equipment.

“We just don’t have the band-width to do more right now,” Macz said. “We want to make sure everything works out well for the animal and our staff. At the end of the day, the hope is to save lives and complete families.”

To keep people safe while still allowing animals to get adopted, Seattle Humane has since launched curb-side adoptions.

Amy Calvert, Queen Anne, decided the time was right to expand her family and found Ash at Dog Gone Seattle Rescue right before the state’s shutdown order. A cosmetic tattoo artist, when her Belltown studio closed, Calvert realized she would have time to offer consistency and training to a new dog. Having a soft spot for senior dogs, she fell for Ash’s slightly gray muzzle and masked eyes online at Dog Gone Seattle’s site, www.doggoneseattle.org/. At approximately 6 years old, Ash is a feisty, smart Chihuahua-mix weighing less than five pounds. Ash was in a high-kill shelter in California, and Dog Gone flew him up with several other dogs.

“He’s the greatest little companion, and truly Joey (her partner) and I are so happy we adopted him during this time,” Calvert said. “He’s given us something to look forward to and provided something positive to focus on.”

Jenny Nordin, director of Dog Gone, said in an email the organization has had so many foster applications, they are running out of crates and supplies to give new foster parents. Emerald City Pet Rescue, www.emeraldcitypetrescue.org, likewise saw a “huge influx” of foster applications.

All the shelters say donations are needed at this time. One thing that is down, Follis said, is fundraising. The spring gala planned for April 19 has become virtual and will be held for almost a week from May 24 through May 31.

“We are continuing to provide essential services, and we rely on the generosity of the public,” Follis said.

PAWS has a donation page, www.paws.org/donate/, for both goods and monetary donations.

Seattle Humane also has a donation page, www.seattlehumane.org/ways-to-give/, and a virtual wish list on Amazon for supplies.

Thomsen added monetary donations are always welcome and, should pet owners or shelter animals need more support in the days and weeks ahead, the organization would access its “Help The Animals Fund” to support any costs associated with this.