Covid-19: Pandemic’s Impact on ZFF Rescue Efforts

Can you adopt a new pet during a global pandemic? How about fostering one? Is it safe?
Zani’s Furry Friends continues to rescue cats and dogs. We sat down with ZFF’s director to discuss how COVID-19 has changed the rescue efforts and the pet adoption process in New York.

Q:  Are people looking to adopt from Zani’s Furry Friends ZFF during this Covid-19 pandemic? 

A:  Currently, people are looking to adopt more than ever!  Many were previously thinking about adopting and now seems the purrfect time because, being at home, purrmits more time to bond or train a new furry friend.  Others are adopting because they realize that they can give back in a big way by taking in a rescued fur friend.  And others have recently lost a furry household member and want a new friend either for their other furries or for themselves.

Q:  How about fostering through Zani’s Furry Friends?

A:  We have been slammed with offers to foster but our cats and dogs have literally been flying off the shelves as soon as available.  So we have not been able to accommodate the many foster applicants.  Oftentimes we offer the “foster to adopt option” but even that is not available because adopters are looking to straight out adopt at this time.

Q:  What advice would you give to potential fosters or adopters who are looking for a pet from ZFF during this health crisis?

A:  To seriously think before they leap into adoption but that is advice we offer to all adopters at all times.  Adoption is furever!  Adoption is not just ‘a feel-good thing to do’ because someone is lonely, bored, or working from home temporarily and this is a convenient time for the adopter.  Adoption is never a distraction or temporary: adoption is for the lifetime of the adoptee.

Q:  Is now advisable to add a furfriend to existing in-house furries?

A:  Always!  Now is actually the best time because adopters are home to integrate and supervise interactions (although most animals figure it out on their own:).  Cats and dogs who are used to having another furry companion need another cat/dog in-house for play or to just be there.  Kittens should always be adopted in pairs for proper socialization which avoids turf wars later when introducing new fur friends.   We advise bringing in others around the same age and size to minimize jealousy and to maximize bonding.  (Young animals with older ones are annoying.)   Great way to avoid potential separation anxiety, too!

Q: How is Covid-19 affecting ZFF’s intake of animals?

A:  Covid-19 has very much affected our choice of cats and dogs.  We can only take in spayed and neutered because, in NY for example, vets under the auspices of the Department of Health are not allowed to do any surgery which is not deemed emergency.  Thus we cannot take in animals from the NYC Animal Care & Control unless they were spayed or neutered previously.  Amputations, eye enucleations, dentals, and the like are considered elective surgery (even when it is not!) so we cannot help those needing the most help right now either.  Luckily, other New Hope groups in other states who have agreements with the NYC shelter system work with vets able to perform such surgeries.

Many of our cats and dogs are now being brought in from newly acquired rescue partners outside of NYS such as Georgia and South Carolina; and we are still able to take dogs from Puerto Rico.  All adoptions of cats and dogs imported internationally from our partners in Kuwait, Russia, and elsewhere have stopped due to a ban on travel. We are hopeful that we can again resume helping our international rescue partners in the near future.

Q:  What is it like adopting a pet during the Covid-19 health crisis? How is it different?  Has the adoption process changed?

A:  Covid-19 is a game-changer on every level and has definitely impacted how we conduct adoptions.  Zani’s Furry Friends ZFF, Inc. has not been able to host adoption events.  Instead, we have done what every other venue has resorted to–remote adoptions!  We advertise online as we have always done; we post our furry friends as soon as we have confirmation that they are going to be ZFFers; we arrange for their arrival to us by air, sea, or land; we screen applications very thoroughly.  Now, in lieu of home visits, we have virtual tours of potential adopters’ homes, property, and 2- and 4-legged family members, or we rely on photos of the same.  Instead of meows and greets for cats or treat and greets for dogs, we interview via phone and email.  We then arrange for curbside pickups and deliveries.  We still guarantee our adoptions so it is a win-win for the adopters and for our furry friends.

Q:  What precautions is Zani’s Furry Friends taking to make sure everyone stays safe during the adoption process?

A:  We meet our adopters outside of the homes with masks and gloves and conduct curbside pick up or deliver curbside.  We try to enforce the 6′ social distancing rule but that is difficult when handing off a carrier or leash.  (Dogs meeting their new furry friend are exempt from the social distancing rules:).  Paperwork is often emailed now.

Similar to remote teaching and learning, we, too, are now undertaking adoptions with a more virtual platform.  Adoptions are still happening–adopters have to be quick making up their minds because of the increased demand and luckily decreased inventory with the result that more animals than ever are finding their furever homes during this pandemic.

Q:  With dog parks in NYC closed, do you have advice to pet owners on how to entertain and exercise their dogs?

A:  NYC has some areas designated off-leash and people should take advantage of those areas to train/exercise their dogs ideally with other dogs of the same size and age group as well as playstyle.  Others are being creative and running/jogging/biking with their canine companions; others are setting up obstacle and agility courses in their apartments, teaching their dogs new tricks.  Many resources are offered on YouTube, IG, Google.  A little research goes a long way to keeping our furry friends happy and stimulated as well as how to prevent separation anxiety once going back to work restrictions are lifted.  People still need to practice social distancing–the dogs do not, but PLEASE wipe your pup off after exercising with other pups and/or if handled by other people.  Don’t forget Lyme vax and Heartworm/flea/tick preventative this year!  We have had to treat dogs with any number of problems over the years, more so recently.

Q: Zani’s Furry Friends has been committed to saving boroughbreds since its inception. Have you seen an uptick in the number of pets in local shelters?

A:  Oddly enough, there are fewer cats and dogs in the NYC shelters.  The ACC of NYC has worked long and hard at cultivating 2 programs:  fosters which also include staycations during holidays, another to help people keep their cats/dogs/others or to keep them temporarily as ‘deferred intake’ while the shelter actively advertises those victims of circumstances to the rescue groups who may be able to help.  We have taken in a number of cases because owners have died and oftentimes the reason is Covid-19 related.

Q:  With so many people financially impacted by the shutdown of the economy, do you think that the number of animals in certain shelters will grow as financial burden on families increases?

A:  We have already seen an uptick of intake in other states.  We also had to take back an adoptee adopted pre-Covid-19 as the pet parent fell on hard times financially without a foreseeable paycheck and moved home where a new solo cat was not welcome.

Q:  Do you know of any resources for pet owners in need?

A:  We help our own adopters and fosters by providing food in some cases, short term foster in others.  The actively refers owners to resources and it is one of the few shelter systems that we at ZFF believe in as they are a very low kill shelter and ONLY euthanize in extreme cases of either illness or aggression (cancer, multiple bite history, and the like).

Q:  Can people contract Covid-19 from infected cats, dogs or other companion animals?  

A:  To date, there are no known crossovers from cats/dogs to people. However, and most unfortunately, there have been cases of the reverse.  Cats, including the big cats, prone to upper respiratory infections have contracted the virus from people!  Luckily, all have recovered without the necessity of extreme intervention.

Q:  How do you think this health crisis will impact the animal rescue community in New York City?

A:  I think the animal rescue community in NYC is going to be as it currently is for a very long time.  This pandemic has 2-3 waves yet to come and we will have to stay tuned and forearmed for future pandemics as this virus mutates or others come and take its place.  There will always be animals given up for a multitude of reasons and rescuers, ZFF, as well as our many rescue friends, are obliged to be there for them, to re-home them ideally in even better circumstances than those they came from.

As of May 25, our stats to date for 2020:
50 cats/kittens and 76 dogs/puppies rescued 🙂
68 felines and 71 canines adopted!!!