Alachua County Animal Services is urging residents to foster a dog, as the staff fears they will reach capacity amid the coronavirus outbreak. (Cassidy Hopson/WUFT News)
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Alachua County Animal Services Urge People To Foster Amid Coronavirus Outbreak

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Alachua County Animal Services is urging residents to consider fostering an animal, as the severity of the coronavirus outbreak increases across Florida.

Its staff fears they will reach capacity during the pandemic, as animals will continue being rescued but less will be adopted.

Animal shelters across the country — from Chicago to Memphis, Tennessee, to New Orleans — have also called for people to consider fostering animals during the coronavirus outbreak.

Alachua County Animal Services has waived adoption fees and provide foster parents with necessities, such as dog food, a kennel and a leash.

While they rescue dogs and cats, their dog population is closest to reaching capacity, so staff and volunteers are focusing their fostering efforts there. They have about 80 dogs that are available to be adopted or fostered.

“We do have a limited number of kennel runs that we can house,” said shelter manager Jane Grantman. “So, because of the COVID-19 situation, we’re really wanting to get animals out to foster or make space in our shelter as much as possible.”

When community members foster an animal, they create room in the shelter for another animal, according to Samm Epstein, a volunteer at Alachua County Animal Services.

“Sometimes fostering one dog can, in turn, save multiple lives because you’re not only emptying that one kennel for that one dog but opening a kennel for another,” Epstein said.

Epstein has fostered between a dozen and 20 animals during her five years at the shelter. While she doesn’t currently foster any animals, she is open to the idea of fostering again if the pandemic causes overcrowding at the shelter.

“I definitely will consider it, it’s usually the most hectic times that I usually will step up and foster a dog from the shelter,” Epstein said.

Kelly Hawkins, 36, also volunteers with Alachua County Animal Services and is a rehabilitation science graduate student at the University of Florida. She also plans to help with fostering during the coronavirus outbreak.

“I was actually just thinking about it for one of the dogs who is currently struggling, especially because I’m going to be home for the next two weeks,” Hawkins said.

The shelter as of this week planned to stay open.

As a county facility, however, they will be forced to close their doors if county facilities are ordered to shut down.

While there has been one instance of a dog being infected with the coronavirus in Hong Kong, there is no evidence that a dog, cat or any pet can transmit COVID-19, according to The World Health Organization. Thus, some are encouraging people to foster animals while self-quarantining.

“If they had to self-quarantine from their pets, that might be a struggle,” Grantman said. “But I just feel like it’s a win-win… You get to help a dog in need, and you get company while you’re home.”

About Cassidy Hopson

Cassidy is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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