Fewer people appeared able to resist a wagging tail, twitching whiskers or even the scaly skin of a reptile as the pandemic swept the world.
While COVID-19 disrupted and closed many businesses, Southwest Florida animal rescue workers are working their tails off with an increase in adoptions and animal intake.
Karen Prohaska and her husband, Bob Von Gyurcsy, of Fort Myers, were fostering a senior dog named Gatsby, 9, for the Gulf Coast Humane Society in February. The plan was to bring him back, but with the pandemic they decided to keep him a bit longer.
Gatsby suffered from allergies that caused a rash, which required medical baths and care. Retirees, Prohaska and Von Gyurcsy didn’t mind helping Gatsby and during a time of uncertainty, they welcomed the distraction.
Gatsby helped them just as much. He gave the couple a routine and taking care of him kept their minds off the pandemic, Prohaska said.
They’d go for walks and car rides, ultimately the couple fell in love with Gatsby.
“It was such a saving grace during the pandemic to have an animal, when your anxiety is high and your fear factor we felt fortunate to have him,” she said.
Ebb and flow
The humane society, in Fort Myers, Executive Director Jennifer Galloway said the interest in adopting is a continuous cycle. One moment the shelter feels empty and the next it’s filled again.
Alicia Fuller, the lead kennel tech at the Gulf Coast Humane Society finishes up bathing a newly acquired dog on Tuesday, October 6, 2020. (Photo: Andrew West, The News-Press)
Compared to 2019 the agency’s dog adoption has increased by 242 and their cat adoption increased by 564, totaling 1,239 adopted dogs and 997 adopted cats so far in 2020.
Read: Cape Coral’s first animal shelter opens. Adoptions start Thursday
The humane society, nearing a decade of operation, is more than just a dog and cat adoption center. It has a rehab facility where workers care for sick and injured animals, as well as a surgery facility where workers conduct spaying and neutering.
It also has a veterinary clinic where the animals are vaccinated, microchipped and have dental work done. This service is open to the public.
Once the pandemic made its way to Southwest Florida, Galloway said the agency wasn’t sure what was going to happen — and that was the hardest part.
Her board members weren’t sure if they were going to have to close, so they put out a plea for foster homes. They received more than 200 applications for fosters and about 90% of the people who fostered at the start of COVID-19 ended up adopting their foster animal.
The human society also wasn’t sure if it was going to get inundated with surrendered pets.
The newly opened Cape Coral Animal Shelter Executive Director Liz McCauley, said the group is exceeding expectations.