URBANA — The Champaign County Humane Society is resuming pet adoptions today, but don’t rush right out to choose your new dog or cat.
Adoptions are available by appointment only. And experts advise weighing some potential pros and cons before deciding if this is the best time for your family to bring home a new pet.
For some, it may be a good time to adopt.
Illinois’ stay-home order in effect for two weeks to slow down the spread of coronavirus means there will be time to develop a routine at home with your new pet, said Dr. Will Sander, a professor of preventive medicine and public health at the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine.
Plus, there are known mental health benefits to interacting with a pet in your home, which could help when human interactions are being limited, he said.
And the stay-home order doesn’t prevent anyone from getting outside with a pet for exercise, he said.
“There are a number of advantages right now,” Sander said.
Two downsides he sees: It’s going to be tough to schedule dog play dates and tougher to get preventive veterinary care over the next few months.
The UI Veterinary Teaching Hospital, for example, is continuing to offer emergency services for life-threatening conditions, but is limiting specialty services to medically-necessary procedures only, and is asking pet owners to ask their primary care veterinarians to call the hospital in advance before a pet can be seen.
Sander said there’s another factor to consider before adopting — whether you’re under more financial stress due to lost wages.
“Obviously, animals require financial resources,” he said. “You want to make sure you have enough to feed, house and get appropriate veterinary care for them.”
For those wondering if a new pet can raise the risk for COVID-19 in people, there’s no evidence to support that dogs or cats can become infected with the disease, according to UI Veterinary Medicine.
In a recent post on its website, the veterinary college said it’s possible that a person with COVID-19 could sneeze or otherwise contaminate a pet, then another person could touch that animal and become infected, but experts believe the transmission risk would be low. The virus survives longer on hard, inanimate surfaces than on soft surfaces, such as fur.
While the Champaign County Humane Society is resuming adoption services, the organization is asking visitors to view animals on its website before calling for an appointment, because the times for in-person viewing of adoptable pets will be limited.
Some other restrictions, for the safety of staff and visitors, include limiting visitors to two per appointment and staggering appointment times to prevent people congregating in the lobby, according to Executive Director Mary Tiefenbrunn.
Visitors will also be given vinyl gloves when they enter, and frequently-touched surfaces will be sanitized between visits from the public.
Tiefenbrunn said adoptions were halted only briefly, while the humane society waited on clarification of the governor’s stay-home order.
Whether this is a good time for pet adoption really depends on individual circumstances, she said.
For example, for those living alone who have a bond with animals and are comforted by having an animal around, it’s a great time to adopt, she said.
“The animal needs you, you need the companionship,” she said.
While some types of veterinary care are being restricted for now, Tiefenbrunn said the animals up for adoption at the Humane Society are still being spayed and neutered and getting their vaccinations.
“What we do is essential,” she said. “We’re doing animal care and these guys need to be vaccinated while they’re here.”