Nova Scotia

The latest in-demand item for people stuck at home — cats

A Dartmouth, N.S., animal shelter says it has seen a surge in the number of people wanting a furry companion while they're staying at home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dartmouth, N.S., shelter says 16 cats were adopted in fewer than 5 days

A Bide Awhile employee in Dartmouth, N.S., watches Aubrey the cat interact with her new owner. Staff at the animal shelter now wear protective gear during appointments. (Bide Awhile)

A Dartmouth, N.S., animal shelter says it has seen a surge in the number of people wanting a furry companion while they're staying at home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bide Awhile has restarted adoptions after initially putting them on hold.

Sehne Connell, the executive director, said it didn't take long for the shelter to start to fill up with cats. They needed to come up with a plan to safely find the animals new homes.

"We've had some animals who have been there for over a month and the cats, generally, they get stressed a little when they've been in the shelter for too long," Connell said.

The longer people physically isolated, the more they called the shelter. They wanted to use the time to adopt and help their new pets adjust at home, said Connell.

Just one family member can go to the animal shelter when they pick up their cats or dogs. (Bide Awhile)

At the end of April, Bide Awhile decided to try a new system. The majority of the paperwork is now done in advance. Adoptions are by appointment, and only for those who are able to adopt immediately. 

In less than a week, all 16 cats were adopted from the shelter's main room.

"It's about the same amount that we would have done over a few weeks," he said. "But there was just so much interest that people really wanted to help the animals and help out and get them adopted."

While Bide Awhile is offering adoptions, they're still on hold at SPCAs across Nova Scotia. A spokesperson said they're hoping adoptions will resume soon, but they're working on making sure staff are protected.

At Bide Awhile, they're spacing out the appointments to make sure there's time to clean in between each adoption, and only one member of a family is allowed to come pick up a pet.

Staff wear protective clothing, including homemade masks that were donated to the shelter. Connell said that will be the system for the foreseeable future.

People have been dropping off donations of bleach and hand sanitizer to Bide Awhile during the pandemic. (Dave Irish/CBC)

With the main room cleared, their attention is now turning to the kittens who are ready to find homes.

The adoptions help their bottom line a bit, but Connell said they're still feeling the loss from the cancellation of the shelter's fundraisers. He said people have been finding other ways to donate.

"People have been really very generous with dropping off items that we may need like bleach or hand sanitizer, things that we need to clean the shelter."

He said the shelter has also prioritized its pet pantry program, which offers free dog and cat food to families who can't afford it at the moment. While he expected a surge in need, so far it has only been a slight increase.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Carolyn Ray

Videojournalist

Carolyn Ray is a videojournalist who has reported out of three provinces and two territories, and is now based in Halifax. You can reach her at Carolyn.Ray@cbc.ca

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