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Increased pet adoptions make it one of the few fields to consider 2020 a successful year

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Pawmetto Lifeline

Students get to meet an adoptable pup during Pawmetto Lifeline's "Dogs on Davis" event on the USC campus. Provided

COLUMBIA — More time at home in 2020 has meant more dogs and cats being adopted and brought home, according to those at South Carolina shelters.

Adoptions at Pawmetto Lifeline, a nonprofit shelter in Irmo, have been taking place at a pace that is 15 to 20 pets per week more than last year on average, according to CEO Denise Wilkinson.

Other services are in higher demand, too. More families are agreeing to foster pets in their own homes, Wilkinson said. It's another example of how people who have switched to working from home have more time to care for animals.

Pawmetto Lifeline also offers pet vaccinations from mobile units and spay/neuter procedures and demand for those activities also has increased, she said. 

More adoptions has meant fewer animals being given euthanasia, according to Abigail Appleton of the Charleston Animal Society.

Shelters statewide that accept animals from the public are seeing much lower rates of animals being put down, said Appleton, who heads the society's No Kill South Carolina initiative.

The rate of cats being euthanized has dropped from 22 percent of those brought in to 13 percent, while the rate of dogs has declined from 11 percent to 7 percent, Appleton said.

Those at animal care agencies feared a later baby boom of unwanted animals after many shelters and clinics suspended spay and neuter procedures this summer to lower the risk of COVID-19 exposure with people dropping off their pets. That has not come to pass, Appleton said. 

People in the community opting to foster care for animals in 2020 has been a boon for local shelters, said Paula Church, communications coordinator for the Greenville Humane Society. 

Getting those pets into foster homes makes room in shelters for the animals that need additional medical or behavioral care, Church said.

"People really stepped up and fostered," Church said.

Community shelters continue to see many pit bulls in need of homes — and the dogs are more challenging to place, Wilkinson said. In a survey of municipal shelters this fall, 38 of the 45 dogs needing adoption were pit bulls.

"It is so, so sad," she said.

Most of these dogs have had no spay/neuter procedures and also can have cases of heartworm that must be treated. Because of their strength, they are not appropriate for adoptions by families with small children and harder to place, she said.

The breed is being over-bred by some owners, either because they are considered sought-after or for dog-fighting, Wilkinson said. The dogs tend to not be well-socialized.

"People are treating them more like property than a member of the family," she said.

Agencies have had more demand for their mobile services during the pandemic, Church said. Instead of bringing people into the shelter, mobile veterinary and food bank services allow owners to get needed services in a safer manner.

"It's really been an opportunity to reinvent what animal sheltering looks like," Church said.

That outreach now includes working with relief agencies that help people who have challenges such as homelessness or other needs. Often, Church said, the need extends to care for those pets that shelter agencies can help provide.

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