Don’t Self Isolate Alone: Animal Shelter Encourages Fostering a Pet During Coronavirus Pandemic

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Americans are being told to stay at home and avoid gatherings of people in an effort to prevent the further spread of COVID-19.

Social distancing is an important step to curbing the coronavirus pandemic, but you don’t have to do it totally alone.

“If you don’t have a pet and are thinking about getting one, now is the perfect time to ‘try it on’ by fostering from your local shelter. Shelters and pet adoption facilities nationwide need people to foster pets on a temporary basis,” Julie Castle the CEO of Best Friends Animal Society, told PEOPLE about how they can help rescue pets and themselves during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Centers for Disease Control, the World Health Organization, and the American Veterinary Medical Association have all stated that pets are not at risk of spreading COVID-19, and science has shown time and time again that adding an animal to your life makes you happier and healthier.

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The choice to foster an animal during this time will also greatly help your local shelter, which is likely suffering from a lag in adoptions, an increase in intakes and limited resources

“Animal shelters across the country are having to deal with an increase of dogs and cats in need of homes because fewer people are visiting shelters right now, and in some cases, shelters are having to temporarily close to the public,” Castle added. “Some animal shelters are already seeing an increase in intake, and many are bracing themselves for the possibility of fewer adoptions and fewer foster homes, and are concerned about limited space.”

For those who already have pets and can’t currently take in another, the CEO of Best Friends Animal Society, the largest no-kill animal welfare organization in the country, urges pet owners to show their furry friend love now more than ever.

“Best Friends hopes to assure people with pets that their relationships with their dogs and cats should remain unchanged and there is no reason to consider surrendering pets to shelters,” she said.

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“It’s not only safe to keep pets in the home, but also beneficial, as they can serve as a source of comfort during a crisis,” Castle added on the perks of having a pet. “The companionship of pets has been shown to reduce stress and lower anxiety, helping people to feel calmer and more secure when the news from the outside world is distressing.”

Castle also suggests stocking up on a month-long supply of food and medication for your pet, keeping their medical records updated and on hand, washing your hands before and after handling your pet, and regularly disinfecting your pet’s products (bowls, leashes, beds, etc.) as ways to keep you and your pet safe during the coronavirus pandemic.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments and visit our coronavirus hub.