In the spring, when it became clear that COVID-19 was going to dramatically alter society for the foreseeable future, many people went to the pound. Animal shelters across the United States saw adoptions rise and unexpected numbers of people sign up to foster animals in their homes. Pets became the go-to salve for a time of great uncertainty.
For animal shelters, this sudden interest caused a moment of reckoning. “We’re looking at the situation now and saying, ‘Wait a minute, were all of these foster homes available prior to this?’” says Peter Wolf, research and policy analyst for Best Friends Animal Society, a nationwide animal welfare nonprofit. “Somehow, because we were clinging to old assumptions, we weren’t taking advantage of this. So now there’s this whole big conversation going on around community-supported sheltering or community-based sheltering.”