August 18, 2021

Pandemic Pet Adoptions Ease As Animal Shelters Fill Up Again

PLAYING IT COOL: Donations of kiddie pools to SAVE, the animal shelter in Skillman, have helped adoptable dogs endure — even enjoy — the summer’s sweltering heat.

By Anne Levin

During the pandemic, animal shelters across the country experienced a unique problem — they nearly ran out of inventory. As the lockdown wore on, the demand for comforting canine and feline companionship grew stronger.

The brief summer reprieve from COVID-19 has reversed things to some degree. Shelters like the Skillman-based SAVE, A Friend to Homeless Animals, are back to seeking “forever homes” for dogs and cats, while raising funds to keep furry residents fed, healthy, and comfortable.

“During the height of the pandemic, from March to July [2020], we cleared our shelter of dogs and most of our cats several times,” said SAVE Executive Director Heather Achenbach. “We can have upwards of 75 cats and we had gotten down to 15. The cats and dogs were coming in. But they were leaving just as quickly. “

Currently, SAVE has about 60 cats in the shelter and 40 in foster homes. Some 22 dogs are being housed at the site, which can accommodate about 100 animals at a time. The nonprofit was founded in 1941 and moved from an overcrowded facility in Princeton to a roomier site in Skillman six years ago.

“In the past two weeks, we’ve definitely seen our numbers going in the right direction,” said Achenbach. “So we’re hopeful that once people get into their fall routines, we’ll see normal adoption numbers again.”

SAVE is picky about who gets to adopt. Potential owners go through a rigorous qualifying process before they get to leave with the pet of their choice. Occasionally, the arrangement doesn’t work out and pets are returned to the shelter.

“I’m happy to say that no one who adopted a pet during the pandemic has called to surrender them,” said Achenbach. “There are people who have fallen on hard times, or found themselves in assisted living or new living arrangements, so it wouldn’t have been surprising.”

Fundraising is key to SAVE’s operations. Among the current efforts is the Furry Friends of SAVE: 2022 calendar, which includes a photo of a pet for those who contribute $25 along with a pet’s photo.

“You hear that saying, ‘Adopting saves a life, but you also save yours,’” said Achenbach. “We hear it many times over. Pets saved lives during the pandemic. They are soft, loving creatures who really brought a sense of comfort at a time that was so stressful. It continues to be stressful. And pets continue to be a comfort.”

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