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A bright light amid the doom and gloom of the COVID-19 outbreak is that pets everywhere are happy and grateful to have their humans at home all day. The pandemic has gifted many people with unexpected time; many Connecticut residents have shared it with animals in need of foster homes.

According to Tori Cateni, co-founder of Pack Leaders of Connecticut in East Hartford, during the past few weeks she has seen a 50% increase in the number of people who want to foster pets.

“We have been experiencing a lot of awesome people who are looking to foster or adopt dogs right now and we are very grateful. This is a great thing for the animals in need,” said Cateni, who points out to prospective adopters that the shelter-at-home period will end and eventually people will be going back to work their usual routines.

“Enjoy your pets, but try and keep some structure and remember that they are a long-term commitment if you adopt a pet right now,” said Cateni, who has successfully adopted out over 40 dogs this week alone.

Like Cateni, Leslie Rich, president of Furry Friends Foster and Rescue Inc. in Monroe, has also been experiencing high numbers of people offering to foster and adopt animals in need.

“There has been a huge surge in the number of people who are able to foster pets right now,” said Rich. “This is wonderful and very unusual, we are usually always scrambling for foster homes.”

Rich, whose rescue focuses on dogs in pounds throughout the state, does not have a facility to house dogs, so she is always on the lookout for loving foster homes to place dogs in until they can be adopted.

“Most of the new fosterers have said that this is something they have always wanted to do, but never had the time. Now they have the time and it is making a positive impact not only in the animals’ lives, but also the peoples’ lives, because caring for a pet gives them something to focus on besides what is going on right now,” said Rich.

For Joann Serra of Branford, the fostering experience has been a very positive one. Serra’s dog recently died and she wanted to give back during this trying time. She decided fostering was the way to do it. She has taken in a medium-sized Boston terrier-bulldog mix named Kami from the Dan Cosgrove Animal Shelter in Branford. She has had Kami for ten days now.

“It has been so rewarding watching her come out of her shell; from cowering in a corner the first day I met her, to walking around my home wagging her tail and giving me kisses,” said Serra with a smile. “Having this foster has kept my spirits up during this crazy time.  Someone to talk to and relax with, which is key right now. It’s so good to focus my attention on something other than the news reports 24/7.”

The Dan Cosgrove Animal Shelter has successfully adopted out and found foster homes for all of its dogs.

“We wanted to make room in our shelter in case there was a big influx of people getting rid of their dogs because they got sick and had no way of taking care of them,” said Wendy Joyce, animal control officer and supervisor at Dan Cosgrove Animal Shelter. “Luckily that has not happened yet, but we wanted to be prepared.”

Animals that are able to live in foster homes versus shelters are able to enjoy more relaxing environments. This can be especially important for shy, fearful animals who may need some extra help and one-on-one attention. The fostering experience helps them to build confidence and trust, which ultimately makes them more adoptable, which is a win for everyone.

“Having a pet at home during these trying times is therapeutic. It gets you out, gives you purpose and companionship and another living being to care for, it’s good for the people and good for the animals,” said Cateni.

The shelters and rescues mentioned in this article are in need of monetary and dry pet food donations. For more information go to, www.packleadersrescue.com, www.branford-ct.gov/departments/animal-shelter or www.furryfriendsct.org.