Local pet adoptions remain high during COVID-19 spread

CDC: There's no evidence that companion animals, including pets, can spread COVID-19.

Just a handful of the pets adopted from March 16 - 22 at the Wadena County Humane Society.

The Wadena County Humane Society had a record year for pet adoptions in 2019 and at this point, the COVID-19 concerns are not slowing them down.

Last Wednesday as the Humane Society prepared to open for the second shift of the day, cars began to pull into the parking lot, some with dogs ready to transfer and others ready to become proud new pet owners. This transfer from those fostering to those adopting takes place daily and has become the new norm for the shelter, which on that day had no pets in the shelter. They did, however, have 26 animals spread among their army of 97 foster families.

One of those fostering for the last couple months is Jerry Karlson, who lives south of Wadena. He was dropping off a young pup that he almost didn't want to give up. He said fostering has been wonderful for him as he is disabled and unable to work. He's been through about five dogs in that time and said the experiences have all been good.

Having the extra pet companions at home is welcome at a time when he'd rather avoid contact with other people. He said he has numerous health concerns that could put him at higher risk of serious illness if he became ill.

"I'm pretty scared myself because I got a blood disorder and my immune system is really weak," he said. "A lot of sanitizer and just kinda staying away."


Karlson said he joined the volunteer program after one of the family dogs died. He was looking to get another dog, but fostering was a choice he and his wife agreed was right for them. Since joining, last week was the first they did not have a dog to foster.

"It's a great thing," Karlson said. "It's actually made me and my wife happier."

It was tough to say goodbye to the little dark-haired pup named White. The new owner was a veteran, who was able to receive a veteran discount.

Thanks to an empty shelter, staff like Allyson Swenson were able to scrape the walls of the kennels so they could all be repainted. The cat area was also getting a full cleaning. Daily wipe downs of the facility have increased with the pandemic moving through the state.

Adopt a cat and they'll even throw in a roll of toilet paper at the Wadena County Humane Society. Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal

Some new protocols are now in place seeking to reduce people's exposure to one another including limited entry into the shelter. When possible, paperwork and transfers are taking place right outside the building. Staff and volunteers practice social distancing even if the dogs and cats break those rules completely.

While overall the economy has been taking a hit from the COVID-19 pandemic, shelter manager Becky Costner said she's been overwhelmed by supporters that continue to help.


"We’re just super grateful for the continued support," Costner said.

That support comes from veterinarians, fosters, the local board, staff, volunteers and the public. They have seen increased giving of supplies in a time when it would seem there is less to give. They also continue to see fosters provide a home and people from all over the Midwest continue to seek pets.

The inability to gather is putting a stop to some of the shelter's fundraising projects. Costner said they are working on virtual fundraising opportunities in the near future.

Costner said the shelter has only had a couple calls of people concerned about their pets catching or spreading COVID-19. Costner also reassures that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stresses that there is no evidence to suggest that pets carry the disease.

That's not to say that someone with the virus can't pass it to you through your pet. As a precaution, Costner encourages pet owners to also distance your pet from other people while practicing social distancing. If you allow others to touch your pet and then you touch your pet, you could pick up the virus on the surface of their hair.

The CDC offers the following key points:

  • Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses. Some cause illness in people and others cause illness in certain types of animals.
  • Coronaviruses that infect animals can become able to infect people, but this is rare.
  • The CDC does not know the exact source of the current outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
  • The CDC does not have evidence that companion animals, including pets, can spread COVID-19.
  • The CDC does not have evidence to suggest that imported animals or animal products imported pose a risk for spreading the 2019 novel coronavirus in the United States.


Stay at home with your new pet

Since the order to stay at home, maybe now is the right time for you to get a pet.

"This is a great time to get a dog acclimated to your home," Costner said. With little human interaction, you can call the shelter for information, view pets online and fill out electronic paperwork from home. The foster families now watching the dogs can even send videos or live chat with you while showing off the pets. Costner said in some cases, they've even been able to deliver dogs to a home allowing adopters to avoid going anywhere. The animal shelter is considered an essential service so they are able to continue doing their work.

The shelter also offers a two-week trial period where you can bring an animal back if things will not work out. They will do what they can to assist in training in order to help make the adoption a successful one.

While the shelter remains open, it is by appointment only. Call 218-632-5938 to schedule any appointments for foster, adoption, donation, or to purchase food and treats.

Michael Johnson is the news editor for Agweek. He lives in the city of Verndale, Minn., but is bent on making it as country as he can until he returns once more to the farm living he enjoys. Also living the dream are his two children and wife.
You can reach Michael at or 218-640-2312.
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