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Amid Pandemic, Shelters Ensure Every Dog Has Its Day

humane societies see ups and downs in adoption numbers throughout pandemic

Rebecca Mennecke, photos by Andrea Paulseth

ADOPTIONS HAVE BEEN PAW-SOME. Maggic and Tulip are just two of many adorable dogs available for adoption at the Eau Claire County Humane Association.
ADOPTIONS HAVE BEEN PAW-SOME. Maggic and Tulip are just two of many adorable dogs available for adoption at the Eau Claire County Humane Association.

Across the country, animal shelters have had to get creative about adoption procedures. From creating appointment slot times, implementing curbside adoption, or offering foster options, animal shelters are finding new ways to keep moving forward.   

When it comes to local humane societies – such as the Chippewa Humane Association in Chippewa Falls, the Eau Claire County Humane Association in Eau Claire, and the Dunn County Humane Society in Menomonie – shelter managers and directors have seen varied fluctuations in the number of adoptions throughout the pandemic. 

“We saw a huge rise in stray pets due to more people being home and reporting them running loose. Thankfully most of them were reunited with their owners and did not have to stay with us.”
– Jess Crosby, shelter manager Chippewa Humane Association

“We have had adoption rates that are through the roof,” said Judy Schindler of DCHS. “It’s been pretty amazing.” 

On the other hand, ECCHA has seen a decrease in adoptions. 

“It’s hard to say what’s causing lower numbers,” said Shelley Janke, director of the ECCHA. 

In the month of May 2019, ECCHA had 86 adoptions, Janke said, but this May they processed only 49 adoptions. Janke suspects the decrease may be because folks who find pets outside are often taking more time to locate the pet’s family instead of bringing them to the shelter.

“During the pandemic, we did not have to change our normal process of accepting cats and dogs,” said Jess Crosby, the shelter manager of CHA. “We still took in stray and surrendered pets by limiting our contact with the human. We saw a huge rise in stray pets due to more people being home and reporting them running loose. Thankfully most of them were reunited with their owners and did not have to stay with us.”  

Despite conflicting adoption rates, foster programs have gone up globally – the ECCHA currently has 75 animals in foster homes, or about 40 more than usual, Janke said. 

DCHS has a worst-case scenario plan with their 11 staff members. If the coronavirus should strike their staff, they have foster families lined up to clear the shelter out within 24 hours. 

Crosby said they have four dogs and 36 cats available for adoption, and Schindler said DCHS currently has two dogs available for adoption and 30 kitten applications pending.

The adoption process has also been smoother because of the new restrictions in place, according to Schindler. Since every family adopting has individualized appointments, the process is less stressful than during ordinary times. 

“The adopters have been very pleased,” Schindler said. 

Despite application and foster family fluctuations, many of the shelters are missing out on critical fundraising opportunities that are a big source of revenue during the pandemic. For example, DCHS generally has at least two rummage sales and other miscellaneous fundraising opportunities every year that they have had to cancel because of the coronavirus. 

But, on July 17-19, they have the Mutt Strut N’ Tabby Trot run/walk, which is going virtual this year. Folks can sign up to pledge a certain amount of money and then do a walk or run – at a distance they choose themselves – to help support the humane society. Every time a person pledges $50, they’re entered in a prize drawing. 

“We’re trying to make this exciting as possible,” Schindler said.

About 50% of revenue for the Eau Claire Humane Association comes from private donations, Janke said. If people are interested in supporting ECCHA, they can visit the group’s Facebook page and look at the weekly wishlists or simply make a donation.


You can find more information about the shelters online at eccha.org, dunncountyhumanesociety.org, and chippewahumane.com.