In the midst of the global Coronavirus crisis, Territorians are turning to furry companions for comfort, a local animal shelter has revealed.
Animal welfare organisation PAWS in Winnellie rehomed five animals in just two days – a significant spike in adoptions, according to manager Lisa Hansen.
“There is definitely a lot of interest in animals, both fostering and adopting,” Ms Hansen, who has worked at PAWS for 15 years, said. “The shelter has been very busy. Recently we’ve rehomed anywhere between 30 and 60 animals a week. Usually, it’s about two a day in a really busy week.”
Ms Hansen said while still adapting to new workflows that allow to stick to strict social distancing rules, the shelter was are finding it difficult to keep up with the sudden demand and many online requests.
“We’ve had to increase staff hours just to get through and we ask people to please be patient with us,” she said.
The shelter is now only accepting online bookings to ensure staff are able to adhere to social distancing requirements, with Ms Hansen worrying a staff member could contract the Covid-19 virus.
“If anyone in our workplace tested positive for coronavirus, we would need to shut down the shelter,” she said. “And then – where would the animals go, and who would look after them? It would be a really hard situation for our team.”
“It seems like a pretty good deal to me”
Katherine woman Suzanne Horten is one of many Territorians who have recently become foster parents to a new four-legged family member.
After losing her own dog Rosie to a python, Mrs Horton said fostering was just the right thing for her and her family.
“It seems like a pretty good deal to me. We get to have a dog again, but don’t have to worry about vet bills if he gets sick,” she said.
While foster dog Ted only moved in with the family a few days ago, Mrs Horton said the pooch was well behaved and had bonded easily with his new temporary family.
“This is our first go at fostering,” Mrs Horton said. “And we’ve only had Ted for a few days – I can only assume it’s very rewarding.”
Mrs Horton said her family would be looking after Ted until he finds his furever parents.
“It probably will be hard to see him go, but we have gone into this knowing it would only be temporary.”
The first-time foster carer said while tail-wagger Ted was “gorgeous, house trained, walks to heel, doesn’t bark and is just a big sook”, the family would not adopt him due to not being able to take “another 15 years of responsibility” for a dog.
Some animals being given up during economic downturn
Despite a rise in adoptions and fostered animals, PAWS manager Lisa Hansen said unfortunately her shelter had also seen a spike in surrendered animals with people giving up their pets after losing their jobs or due to having to move to a smaller home.
The shelter manager encouraged those living or moving to units with their animals to use enrichment techniques to help manage the pets and keep them occupied.
“There are many brain games and simple activities people do with their pets, from search games to trick training, that enrich both the pets’ lives and their owners’ especially when they are cooped up,” Ms Hansen said.
The qualified dog trainer said she was also running online training classes including puppy school.
“Training is challenging because people cannot necessarily see that dog training isn’t always just about dogs, but it’s about the owner and how they manage the dog,” Ms Hansen said.
“The better the handler’s skills, the better they can communicate with the animal.”
Currently the shelter teaches classes live via its Facebook page, but staff are working on improved delivery, including downloadable video links.
“We have had about 100 class views since we started,” Ms Hansen said.
“We hope for this to become more interactive and for all our team members to get involved. We don’t want to showcase the perfect tricks, but we want people to see that our dogs are challenging too sometimes and that if we spend the time with them, we can achieve great things.”
Classes are free at the moment, but Ms Hansen said the shelter welcomed donations towards the care of their animals.
Ms Hansen said while staff were scrambling to keep up with demand there was no time for the shelter to offer animal home delivery options, however, PAWS is working with friends, family members and volunteers to unite new pet owners stuck in isolation with their new furry friends.