Link to Owner Dr. Robert B. Pamplin Jr.



Interest in adopting pets increased while people were dealing with isolation, but process has more hurdles

PMG FILE PHOTO - Victor and Leah the dog participated in MacLaren Youth Correctional Facilitys Project POOCH.There have been times when it's been easier to adopt a pet, but some indications suggest that interest in pet adoption appears to have heightened during the pandemic era.

Examples of that have surfaced locally via Oregon Youth Authority's Woodburn institution MacLaren, where Project Pooch has been a popular outreach for many prospective new dog owners.

"Our adoptions have been through the roof since COVID," said Project Pooch coordinator Makai Brusa. "It's been kind of hit or miss trying to get dogs; a lot of the shelters we use have had shortages or just a few dogs. But once we do they are quickly adopted.

"Sometimes we will get 20 calls about one dog. COVID has made people dog crazy."

A scholarly article released in November by Humanities and Social Science Communications seems to bear that out. The research article, "Human–dog relationships during the COVID-19 pandemic: booming dog adoption during social isolation," depicts pet ownership as a viable tool for psychological health, especially during stressful times.

"Human-dog relationships" cites eight authors and a rich array of research. According to the article: "Social isolation may prevent the spread of the disease, (But) social isolation is an additional stressor to an already highly stressful world environment and people's extensive fear of the novel COVID-19 pandemic threat . . . Interestingly, the mental health benefits of owning a companion animal, such as a dog or a cat, have been shown by several scientific studies.

"The majority of studies indicate that interactions with animals may help with depression, anxiety, and stress, in particular under stress-prone conditions," according to the article. "On the one hand, companion animals provide companionship, improve mood, and may ease loneliness; human–animal interactions may even improve peer-to-peer social relationships, as well as enhance feelings of respect, trust, and empathy between people."PMG FILE PHOTO - Tito, a participant in Project POOCH, enjoyed a grooming session while being trained at the MacLaren project.

Changes in the process

Dating back to 1993, Project Pooch developed as a unique and successful rehabilitative program whereby trainers and dogs develop mutually beneficial relationships based in unconditional love.

Besides locating dogs to train, Project Pooch has dealt with some hurdles adjusting to the heightened sanitation and distancing protocol that emerged in 2020. Moreover, with the institution closed, trainers can't visit. But Bursa said they have managed to maintain high standards, use training videos and some in-house knowledge.

"The guys are making good use of the tools we have," he said.

Another change is the adoption process. Normally Bursa makes home visits to prospective adopters, but the virus has nixed those. And since they can't visit the dog inside MacLaren, they've instead met people at an open area outside the facility to meet and see the dogs that way.

That's an adjustment other entities have made, and it is one factor in crimped adoptions during a time when demand seems to be increasing.COURTESY PHOTO: OREGON HUMANE SOCIETY - Brittany Grenfell said she fell in love with Nelson when she saw him in Oregon Humane Society kennel. She was first in line Monday, Dec. 3, to adopt Nelson. OHS sets goals of adopting out 11,000 pets a year, but pandemic issues precluded hitting that goal in 2020.

"In a typical year we do about 11,000 adoptions. However, due to the pandemic we had to shift to an appointment-only model where most of the process is done online or over the phone," said Oregon Humane Society spokeswoman Laura Klink.

"Of course this change was designed to keep staff and the public safe by minimizing the amount of time an adopter is at our shelter," Klink added. "We have definitely seen a lot of interest in pet adoptions this year. It's hard to compare this year to past years since our entire adoption process is so different.

"It looks like we will end the year around under 7,200 adoptions. About 5,000 of those were done since we moved to adoption by appointment."

Willamette Humane Society's digital process for adoptions helped it through the change as the adoption team was able to consult with adopter's in advance.

"I think the biggest challenge was adopters weren't able to connect with the animals in person like they usually do," WHS Communications Manager Callie Gisler said. "Instead of coming to the shelter to wander through the kennels and see each animal, they were browsing our website. We put a lot of focus on the photos, videos, and pet biographies we were sharing for each animal. It was so important to capture each pet's personality through that content."

WHS moved to the appointment-only process, which did crimp the number of adoptions a bit. The shelter compensated somewhat by moving from being open 5-days to 7-days a week.

"The shelter did over 1,700 adoptions through 2020. The numbers were slightly lower than our usual adoption stats, but I'm so proud that our organization was able to pivot and get creative to continue our mission work," Gisler said.

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