As the coronavirus pandemic continues to devastate the globe and confine people to their homes, many are adopting pets for comfort.
And a leading animal welfare group is working diligently to help those facing economic hardship in Massachusetts hang onto their pets.
“People do need companionship, and pets have been proved to decrease our stress and keep us more comfortable,” said Michael Keiley, director of adoption centers and programs at the MSPCA, in a phone interview Friday. "That is certainly something that people are seeking right now.”
The MSPCA has about 170 animals available at its adoption centers in Boston, Methuen, and Centerville, according to Keiley.
The group, he said, is also supplying food pantries with pet food to help animal owners who are struggling to make ends meet. He said the MSPCA has partnered with other groups to distribute more than 7,400 meals of both human and pet food to pantries and individuals, as well as cat litter, toys, and treats.
"When economic issues come into play, there is a reality that people are going to have to make some tough choices,” Keiley said. “We want that animal to stay with people.”
One facility that experienced a recent surge of interest in adoption is the Scituate Animal Shelter of Massachusetts, which reported Wednesday via Facebook that all of its animals had found homes.
“Because of YOU, the good people of our community who stepped up during this time, we have successfully placed every single shelter animal into a foster home or an adoptive home where they will spend this time warm, cozy and loved,” the shelter posted Wednesday. “We have to thank all of you from the bottom of our hearts."
The shelter’s executive director, Maryann Regan, said in an e-mail Friday that the housed animals numbered about 20.
Once the shelter became aware of the gravity of the pandemic, Regan wrote, “we put ourselves into action” to find at least temporary homes for the animals, and “tons of people (over 100) reached out to us willing to foster during this time. ... We see time and time again how good people can be.”
Regan said people have given typical reasons for taking in pets, such as love of animals or a need for companionship.
“However, people are adding to that reason with explanations such as ‘I have wanted a companion animal for a while and since I will be home for a while, now seems to be a good time,’ ” Regan wrote.
She said that as of Friday afternoon, two dogs, four cats, and and two rabbits that the shelter has placed in temporary foster care are available for adoption. The list of available animals changes frequently, she said, so those interested in adopting are encouraged to check the shelter’s website.
She said the process is in keeping with "honoring social distancing and staying at home as much as possible.”
“When someone is interested in adopting one of our current animals in foster, we walk them through the process, discuss everything about the animal we know and have them sign adoption contracts electronically,” Regan wrote.
The state’s order that temporary closed non-essential businesses exempts a number of categories, including those "responsible for the care and custody of animals, pets, and livestock.”
But although the Scituate Animal Shelter remains open, staffers are working to minimize human foot traffic. They are operating on an appointment-only basis and can be contacted via e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 781-544-4533.
The pet adoption trend isn’t limited to Massachusetts.
The New York Times recently reported that animal shelters nationwide are seeing “a surge in interest in fostering pets,” including at Animal Care Centers of NYC, which received 2,000 applications to foster 200 animals in a period of just a few days earlier this month.
“People want to do something good,” said Keiley, when asked about the public’s inclination to take in four-legged friends amid the pandemic. He said the MSPCA is also offering emergency sheltering for the pets of owners who must go into the hospital.
“We’re doing everything we can to be as creative as we can to make sure that animals and people stay together,” he said.