Quarantine companions: 'If you can give a pet a home whilst self-isolating it’s fabulous'

As shelters brace for fewer volunteers and more surrendered animals, Australians are being urged to consider adopting or fosteringAndrew has always wanted a cat of his own. When he was 10 he presented his parents with a dossier that laid out the case for getting him a kitten. His request was denied. Twenty-three years later, he brought home Maximum “Max” Tony Valentine, named in part after his grandfather. What better time to bring home an animal than during a global pandemic, right? All those days at home, all the soothing chin scratches at a time of profound anxiety. Andrew is self-isolating because he has a compromised immune system, which makes him especially vulnerable to Covid-19 . He and his fiance, Cameron, have just had to postpone their April wedding until the end of the year.

This cat provides just the joy and solace they need. Max, happily oblivious to the perils of being human right now, is just pleased to have a home.

“If you can give a pet that needs a good home a suitable home whilst you are self-isolating, from my experience it’s fabulous,” Andrew says. “You’re at home all day which means you can provide endless hours of enrichment and love to a new animal. On Sunday I spent a good two hours completely overjoyed baking banana bread and listening to Kacey Musgraves whilst Maximum played with a peg at my feet. Max is basically the greatest thing that the Internet has given me aside from my beautiful husband to be (we met on a gay hook-up app).”

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Max was adopted from Forever Friends Animal Rescue in New South Wales. Other shelters around the country are wondering what they’re going to do with all the creatures in their care. The Australian Animal Protection Society, for example, has had to stop accepting new animals. It has also cut the cost of adopting a pet by half, to encourage people to take home an animal. “We just don’t know how long we’ll be able to keep functioning,” says the society’s general manager, Megan Seccull. “We had 15 kittens this past weekend alone. I am heartbroken because I just don’t know who is going to come into our shelters and pick these animals up. If the government tells us we have to close to the public, where will they all go?”

Seccull is hoping that people will at least volunteer to foster animals temporarily, through this crisis. Most animal shelters have a fostering system, where they recruit and train kind human beings to care for their animals until they can be adopted permanently. Anyone who can commit to caring for an animal for the rest of their lives might consider adoption.

Meanwhile, RSPCA shelters around the country are bracing for drastic changes to the way they operate. They’re losing volunteers and donations, as well as simply seeing fewer people turn up to meet their animals.

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“We are concerned about the impacts of the crisis – for example, people losing work or income and struggling to afford pet food and vet care bills,” says Dr Sarah Zito, senior scientific officer at the RSPCA. “We’re not yet seeing a significant increase in intake or more people surrendering their pets during the coronavirus pandemic … Sadly, we do expect this will happen over time. The likelihood of a drop in adoptions, donations and volunteer support, as well as an increase in surrenders is a very real concern for us at the moment. Most RSPCAs expect these changes to become more significant and serious this week and onwards.”
Max, a cat adopted during the Covid-19 pandemic


‘Max is basically the greatest thing that the Internet has given me aside from my beautiful husband to be,’ Andrew says
Adoption rates are now generally a little lower in most states and territories at the moment. Last week the South Australian branchput a call out to recruit foster carers and adopters, and lowered fees by up to 75%. “The public response has been fantastic,” Zito says of this initiative.

Where to adopt or foster


As the Covid-19 crisis progresses, RSPCA shelters around Australia have had to change their hours and take a number of other steps to protect their employees, volunteers and animals. RSPCA Western Australia has introduced an online booking system for adoption appointments, as has RSPCA South Australia. RSPCA NSW is closing most branches on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Zito suggests following the RSPCA on social media for updates, and calling your nearest branch if you have “urgent concerns”. LocalSome local animal welfare societies are still seeking volunteers for adoption and foster care, while others have ceased adoption and fostering activities. Pet Rescue has a database of local animal shelters around Australia. Call ahead if you plan to adopt or foster, as circumstances are changing quickly.

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