More shelter pets finding homes during the pandemic

MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) Pets have been finding "furever" homes quickly at the Central Vermont Humane Society.

"We've been wanting a dog since we were little, it's just never really been the right time," said Emily Tringe, a 12-year-old from Montpelier.

We talked with a local family, the Tringes, who recently adopted Berkley from the Central Vermont Humane Society. She was surrendered to the shelter by first responders who couldn't keep up with the 6-month-old pup while on the front lines of the pandemic.

The Humane Society's Erika Holm says they're seeing a trend in stories similar to the Tringes'. From March 15 through May 4 of last year, they adopted out 62 cats and dogs. During that same time-frame this year, they've adopted out 96.

"We're thrilled to be getting the animals out into hopefully forever homes. Because we did worry: would this pandemic have an increase in surrenders and a reduction in adoptions? And it's actually been the opposite," Holm said.

The shelter is closed to the public during the pandemic and has shifted to a curbside pickup model, doing all of their counseling, matchmaking and payments over the phone. Families can meet dogs outside the building before they're adopted, while cats meet their owners for the first time in the parking lot on the day they're to be brought home.

The Tringes say although it's a little different, the process worked perfectly.

"After they took her inside and they brought us the paperwork, we got out of the play ring and we just started crying," said Emily.

Officials say they do anticipate there will be more surrenders as owners start going back to work. Now, there's a community effort to ensure the animals stay in their forever homes.

In mid-March, the Vermont Disaster Animal Response Team, or VDART, foresaw food insecurity would skyrocket during the pandemic. The board discussed ways to support the state's pet population and decided to give funds to each of the four VDART regional teams so they could purchase pet food.

They left it up to each organization to decide how to disperse the resources. Some created pet food shelves at shelters, but Lisa Lemieux, the director of the Central Vermont Disaster Animal Response Team, chose to donate the food to 11 Washington County and Orange County food pantries. She picks up and delivers the food to pantries with the hope of keeping animals in their homes.

"To keep it simple and have food located in one place and knowing it's going to people who use it, who can use it, the food shelves and the food pantries became our priority," said Lemieux.

Faith and Action in Cabot is one of them. The food shelf serves more than 600 people and is offering pet food to whoever comes through the door. And volunteers say those resources are flying off the shelves.

CVDART has formed a partnership with the Central Vermont Humane Society in Barre in which leaders are donating excess food for the cause.

The Humane Society has so much extra because the shelter is practically empty, thanks to the increase in pet adoptions.