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Kelsey Pierce, a musician and songwriter in New York City, had always wanted to foster a dog with her roommate, Allyson Backus, but because of their busy schedules it was never a real possibility. Since all of New York is currently on a stay-at-home order because of the coronavirus pandemic, the pair were finally able to take on a furry friend. 

“We have seen a surge in adoptions, fosters, as well as rescue placements, since COVID-19 started happening,” said Dr. Rachel Warnes, the lead veterinarian at Animal Care Centers of NYC, the main animal shelter in NYC. “Before we had 150 animals in foster, and now we have 266 animals.” It’s not just dogs either. The shelter has helped foster cats, kittens, rabbits and even guinea pigs. 

At one point, they had 291 animals in foster care, Warnes said. “An animal will come in the door and within five minutes it will be placed with either a foster home from an adopter or a rescue partner. It’s amazing.” Rescue partners can take in specific animals, like golden retrievers, and help them find a home. Some animals can be fostered, which is a temporary housing situation for a pet, or adopted, which is permanent. 

Pierce and Backus sent in applications to various shelters across the city and eventually heard back from the New York Bully Crew. After doing a video interview with the shelter, the roommates were able to foster Breezy, a dog they believe is a pit, boxer, rottweiler mix, on March 26. “Having a dog has completely 180’ed our quarantine experience,” said Backus. “She makes us so happy just looking at her. We can’t stop smiling.”

While they’re not able to adopt Breezy, they plan on fostering her in their Harlem apartment until she’s adopted. 

Breezy, a NYC foster dog

Shelters across the country are experiencing a similar spike in fostering and adoptions. Warnes said “the human-animal bond is really important” at times like these. According to Warnes, the shelter put out an emergency plea for fosters and “New York stepped up.” She added that they had “thousands of people email us looking to foster. It was awesome.”

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While fostering may seem like a great plan right now for those in need of a good cuddle, Pierce warns that it’s not for everyone. “Absolutely recommend fostering, but you have to be honest about what you can take on,” she said. “Be honest with the people at the shelter, because it needs to be a good fit for you and the animal you’re taking in.”

If you do adopt or foster, Warnes says, it’s important to “social-distance with pets. If you’re walking your dogs in the morning, keep 6 feet away from other dogs as well just to be safe.” While Animal Care Centers of NYC doesn’t believe dogs can transmit the coronavirus to one another, it’s still unknown.  

She also stressed how vital it is to have a contingency plan for your pets if you get sick. “You need a Plan B and a Plan C on who can take your pets. Even if it’s just for a short amount of time if you’re in the hospital,” she said. “I know they’re important to you just like they’re important to me.”

At the end of the day, fostering was the right option for Backus and Pierce. “It’s definitely a little bit challenging and occasionally a little bit frustrating, but she’s really just a total sweetheart,” said Backus. 

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For more information on fostering or how to help the Brooklyn Animal Care Centers of NYC, visit their website. 

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