We spoke with Lindsey Buckner Mays from the Greater Birmingham Humane Society to learn more about the importance of supporting your local animal shelters during this time.
puppy peeking through a gate
Credit: Wavetop/Getty Images

Between social distancing and quarantines, it's safe to say this is a pretty isolating time in the world. While we can stay connected through social media, phone calls and video chatting, there's nothing quite like the physical presence of someone—or something—you love. Animal shelters are encouraging people to foster and adopt animals right now, and they're taking extra precautions to ensure COVID-19 prevention measures are in place to minimize human contact.

"COVID-19 isn't transmitted or contracted in any way by animals—this is one thing people are very confused about," says Lindsey Buckner Mays, director of marketing at Greater Birmingham Humane Society. "There's no reason for you to avoid contact with animals. There are actually a lot of positive health implications of being around them."

Research shows simply petting your dog or cat can relieve stress in minutes—something we all could use more of in our lives right now. Owning a pet can even help you live longer! Pets keep us active, give us something to care for and help care for us. And you don't have to make the commitment to adopt to reap the benefits—you can also temporarily foster a pet!

How to Foster or Adopt a Pet During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Every organization will have their own process, but GBHS is changing the adoption and fostering process to help comply with CDC recommendations to practice social distancing. Those looking to foster will still need to send in an online application, but foster parent and adoption training will be conducted via phone or webinar.

Foster parents are welcome to purchase their own food and supplies (if available), but humane societies typically supply foster homes with everything they need to take in an animal for two to three weeks. Stocking up on your own food or supplies would be a welcomed option if you have the means, as it relieves the shelter's financial burden and frees up supplies for other people wishing to foster animals.

Mays says GBHS is doing its best at the adoption center to follow proper social distancing procedures. The organization is currently offering adoptions by appointment only to keep the overall number of people inside the center low. She says GBHS and likely many others are waiving adoption fees at this point.

"This is a good time to cement those bonds and train your pet while you're stuck at home," Mays says. "We want to make sure these animals find forever homes regardless, but the fewer animals we have right now, the less staff is needed. It's safer for us—we can't all work from home because we have to take care of these animals here."

Humane societies and shelters like the GBHS need help more than ever, as Mays says nonprofit giving has dropped since COVID-19 fears escalated last week. She says this will have a huge impact on organizations like hers that function mostly on donor funds and require around-the-clock staff. Fostering and adoption aren't the only ways to help out.

How to Help Animals During the Coronavirus Outbreak If You Don't Want to Foster

There is plenty you can do to help animals during the COVID-19 pandemic if you don't want to commit to adding another furry member to your house. Making a monetary donation to your local shelter is always a good place to start, as it can help the organization fund its immediate needs. Mays says dropping off old towels or linens would also be a major help, as most animal shelters are always in need of more. Many shelters are setting up donation drop boxes outside their facilities to limit exposure.

"Advocating is a free and easy way to make sure we are at top of mind," Mays says. "Share our social media posts and keep people aware."

Additionally, the GBHS and many other organizations have created Amazon Wishlists to help meet needs. The best part? Your gift ships directly to the organization and allows you to remain in your house.