URBANA — Eight cats, four rabbits, two iguanas and one dog named Dobby.
That was the lineup of adoptable pets available on the Champaign County Humane Society website Wednesday. And even with some dogs and cats in “holding” and awaiting adoptable status, the numbers at the Humane Society’s animal shelter in Urbana were low for this time of year, according to Executive Director Mary Tiefenbrunn.
So where have the rest of the homeless pets gone?
Tiefenbrunn said she can’t say for sure, but she can say this is likely a temporary situation.
“It’s a weird time,” she said. “Every time through this whole pandemic situation we make an assumption about something, it’s not true. We’re just in uncharted territory.”
Typically, there would be about a dozen dogs and about 40 cats in the adoptable lineup this time of year, Tiefenbrunn said.
While there was just one dog available to adopt Wednesday, there will be more coming along, she said.
There were six dogs in holding and some intakes scheduled to come in, Tiefenbrunn said. Also in holding were 10-15 cats, plus a few groups of kittens in the pipeline, she said.
Animals coming into the shelter aren’t immediately available for adoption because they can be fairly stressed about their new living situation. They’re placed in holding for a time to get them accustomed to shelter living, according to Tiefenbrunn.
“Anecdotally, I know that other shelters in central Illinois are also low on dogs, and I know that some shelters in the Chicagoland area are not experiencing this dramatic decrease,” she said.
On Tuesday, the Champaign County Humane Society transferred in two dogs from a shelter in the Chicago suburbs to help ease the burden there, she said.
As of Wednesday, the Humane Society of Danville had a dozen adoptable dogs and about seven adoptable cats, with the number of cats down by a few after the Champaign County Humane Society picked them up, said kennel Director Alyssa Julian.
Typically, the shelter in Danville would have more like 30 cats and 20 dogs available for adoption, she said.
Julian said she believes the lower numbers are linked to people simply leaving their homes less during the pandemic.
Home for months, some people figured it was a great time to adopt a pet, she said.
The fear she and other animal shelter officials hope they won’t see come true is a big influx of unwanted animals when the state shutdown ends, people go back to work and realize they don’t have time for the pets they adopted, Julian said.
Tiefenbrunn said intakes of both dogs and cats have been down nationally during the pandemic period of March 13 to May 15, compared to those same months last year. Dog intakes were down 46 percent and cat intakes were down 49 percent, she said.
In Illinois, dog and cat intakes were both down 25 percent for those two months, she said.
Dog and cat adoptions were also both down by about 30 percent nationally from the March to May period, but dog adoptions in Illinois were up by 9 percent and cat adoptions were down by 17 percent, Tiefenbrunn said.
Some of what may be going on is that the kinds of situations that can lead to surrendering a pet haven’t happened as much because lives, for now, are on hold, according to Tiefenbrunn.
“Nobody is moving, taking new jobs, going on vacation, none of these things that force an issue are happening,” she said.
Another consideration: Tiefenbrunn said campaigns to spay and neuter pets and educate people about responsible pet ownership have been successful, leading to a downward trend in the number of unwanted dogs being surrendered at the shelter.
What’s causing a lower intake of cats is harder to pin down, but it would be odd if there was a sudden sharp decline in the number of free-roaming cats breeding, she said.
“We keep thinking any week now, we’re going to get slammed with litters being born in barns and people’s yards,” Tiefenbrunn said.
Champaign County Animal Control Director Stephanie Joos said the pandemic hasn’t slowed down the work being done by local animal-control officers.
There were four to six stray dogs being held in animal control Wednesday, she said, “but we have seen a huge decrease in cats come through the door.”
It could be that people are out less, so they’re not seeing those animals as much, Joos said.
“It’s just weird times all the way around,” she said.