Evanston Animal Shelter rethinks its adoption process amid COVID-19


Illustration by Catherine Buchaniec

After Gov. Pritzker issued a “stay-at-home” order for the state of Illinois, many people have been looking to adopt and foster animals from Evanston Animal Shelter.

Lauren McCaffrey , Reporter

McCormick senior Audrey Wu has been fostering dogs since she moved off-campus her junior year.

She fostered Ruby, her most recent dog, for more than a year. Wu said Ruby had behavioral issues, so she was concerned the dog wouldn’t be adopted.

“During this quarantine someone finally adopted (Ruby), which was a relief,” Wu, a former Daily contributor, said. “In all honesty, this time has had a positive impact for the shelter because animals can bring joy to people, now more than ever.”

Since then, Wu has taken in two new dogs: Ross and Rachel.

Vicky Pasenko, the co-founder and co-president of Evanston Animal Shelter Association, said the shelter has received hundreds of applications to foster cats and dogs since Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued a stay-at-home order for the state of Illinois. The shelter will send the few dogs who are left to foster families within the week, she said.

Adoption, however, has posed a challenge to the shelter. Prior to the pandemic, Pasenko said staff members were able to introduce the shelter’s spontaneous visitors to multiple dogs at once. Now, she said people must approach the adoption process with more intent, scheduling a visit with a specific dog they picked out on the website. As a result, the shelter is rethinking what adoption will look like moving forward, Pasenko said.

“We need to get these dogs and cats out into foster homes as quickly as we can, instead of keeping them in the facility for any length of time,” Pasenko said. “And adopt them from there instead. It’s healthier.”

EAS volunteer Emma Dolan (Weinberg ’18) has fostered dogs for four years. When the stay-at-home order was first issued, Dolan said she decided to foster a dog because she was working from home.

However, there has been an increase in “foster fails” during this time, Dolan said. Families are spending significant amounts of time with their foster pet, she said, rendering them unable to imagine it going to a different family and being adopted.

“In all honesty, it’s been a positive thing for the shelter,” Dolan said. “All the sudden fostering is so much more accessible for people. When you foster a dog, it learns how to be in a home and not in a stressful environment. There’s space in the kennel again… So you’re saving more lives that way.”

Dolan said as COVID-19 intensifies financial strain in Evanston, demand for affordable pet food has increased. In response, the shelter has stocked the James Park food pantry with cat and dog food.

The shelter is encouraging pet owners to reach out for anything they need, she said.

“While it really disrupted shelter operations, and it’s a really risky thing from a financial perspective, (COVID-19 has) shown that the community does really care about this cause and that we are in a place where we can find people that help us to do right by these animals,” Dolan said. “It’s an outpouring of support to a degree I’ve never seen before.”

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Twitter: @LaurenKMcCaf

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