As families stay home and spend more time together, some are considering adopting a dog or cat from their local shelter. There are many benefits to bringing a furry friend into your home. Learning about shared responsibility, increasing your exercise and activity levels, and forging a strong emotional bond are just a few -- not to mention the great feeling of saving a life.
As a result, Valley Humane Society and shelters across the country are seeing an increased interest in available dogs and cats. Prior to the stay-at-home orders being issued in the Bay Area, Valley Humane would receive roughly five inquiries for each available animal. Today, we can get as many as 50.
This increase is happening at a time when fewer animals are available.
Private surrenders -- which occur when pets are voluntarily given up by their owners, often due to a lack of time to care for them -- are down significantly. And strays in our region are at an all-time low, which means there are fewer animals to intake from public shelters and make available for adoption.
For animal welfare organizations, this is a good problem to have. We want every animal to be placed in a safe and loving home. But for people eager to adopt, it can be more challenging than they expected.
If you find yourself frustrated in your search, here are a few tips:
* Cast a large net: Your local animal shelters appreciate your support, but it's more important to find a pet that's right for you and your family, wherever that may be. Sites like PetFinder.com and AdoptAPet.com list animals from a wide variety of sources, including local ones.
* Search frequently: Regularly check rescue and humane society web sites and be ready to submit a request when you see an animal who may be a good fit. Valley Humane also offers "Home-to-Home," a service that lists animals currently in homes who need new ones due to relocation or other circumstances. You can reach out directly to the owner and learn more about the animal before setting up an introduction.
* Be flexible: Many of us have an idea of the perfect pet; maybe a specific breed, age, color, etc. But consider expanding your search to include a lovable mutt or mixed breed cat that just wants a warm bed and plenty of belly scratches. You may find out the perfect companion looks nothing like what you had in mind.
* Check specialty organizations: If you are looking for something specific, contact groups that focus on individual breeds. Northern California has nonprofit rescues for virtually every kind of animal; a partial list can be found at valleyhumane.org/resources-links. You may have to drive a little further, but you and your pet will benefit from the extra effort.
Most of all, be patient, and remember: you're bringing an animal into your family for a long and happy relationship. It will be worth the wait.
Editor's note: Melanie Sadek is executive director of Valley Humane Society in Pleasanton and secretary to the Board of Directors for the California Animal Welfare Association. She has a passion for making change that positively impacts all companion animals in California.