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Animal shelter urges Americans stuck at home to foster a pet during COVID-19 pandemic

Animal shelter urges Americans stuck at home to foster a pet during COVID-19 pandemic

The Centers for Disease Control, the World Health Organization, and the American Veterinary Medical Association have all clarified that pets are not at risk of spreading COVID-19.

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With America finally grasping the severity of the novel coronavirus outbreak that has claimed thousands of lives since late last year, people have found themselves staying at home and avoiding public gatherings to curb the spread of the virus. Although social distancing is believed to be key in slowing the spread of the pandemic, many have voiced concerns about the devastating effect isolation can have on one's mental well-being. Mental health professionals are scrambling to address the potential side effect of the crisis on those suffering from depression—especially those who struggle with suicidal thoughts—as the current state of the world is bound to add to their woes.



 

Speaking to NBC News, Emily Roberts—a Manhattan-based psychotherapist—pointed out that any "isolation is so devastating to our own mood because we're left stuck with our own thoughts. If you're struggling with a mental health disease, if you are relying on therapy which requires you getting out of your house, it's going to be very hard to motivate yourself to get the help you need. The fact that there's so much of an urgency to disconnect creates a lot of fear with people."



 

Judith Moskowitz, a professor of medical social science at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, pointed to a 2004 study of 129 Toronto residents who were under quarantine during the SARS epidemic which found that PTSD and depression were observed in 28.9 percent and 31.2 percent of respondents, respectively. "Humans are wired to be social creatures, and that's how we cope when a big disaster happens. Now, we're being told to cope with this by staying away from each other," said Moskowitz. Thankfully, an animal shelter has now come up with a potential solution to this issue while at the same time giving homes to rescue animals.



 

"If you don’t have a pet and are thinking about getting one, now is the perfect time to ‘try it on’ by fostering from your local shelter. Shelters and pet adoption facilities nationwide need people to foster pets on a temporary basis," Julie Castle, the CEO of Best Friends Animal Society, told PEOPLE. Despite earlier concerns, the Centers for Disease Control, the World Health Organization, and the American Veterinary Medical Association have all clarified that pets are not at risk of spreading COVID-19.



 

Moreover, a recent study conducted by Washington State University—like many others before it—determined that cuddling and stroking a cat or dog for just a few minutes can reduce stress. Therefore, fostering an animal during this time can prove beneficial for the mental well-being of self-quarantined Americans while also helping local shelters that have been suffering from a lag in adoptions, an increase in intakes, and limited resources. "Animal shelters across the country are having to deal with an increase of dogs and cats in need of homes because fewer people are visiting shelters right now, and in some cases, shelters are having to temporarily close to the public," Castle revealed.



 

"Some animal shelters are already seeing an increase in intake, and many are bracing themselves for the possibility of fewer adoptions and fewer foster homes, and are concerned about limited space," she added. As for those who already have pets and cannot take another in, Castle believes they should show their furry friends some love now more than ever. "Best Friends hopes to assure people with pets that their relationships with their dogs and cats should remain unchanged and there is no reason to consider surrendering pets to shelters," she said.



 

"It’s not only safe to keep pets in the home, but also beneficial, as they can serve as a source of comfort during a crisis. The companionship of pets has been shown to reduce stress and lower anxiety, helping people to feel calmer and more secure when the news from the outside world is distressing," Castle added. She also recommended stocking up on a month-long supply of food and medication for your pet, updating and keeping their medical records on hand, washing your hands before and after handling pets, and regularly disinfecting their bowls, leashes, beds, etc.



 

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