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The coronavirus outbreak has forced animal shelters across Southern California to temporarily close or limit the number of visitors to their facilities. This week, they’re reporting a spike in applications from people who want to foster or adopt pets.

Riverside County Animal Services said it’s still open but is only allowing up to five guests in its lobby. Fewer than 10 people, including staffers, can visit the adoption bungalows. Employees are also reminding everyone to stay 6 feet apart, the agency said. 

Experts have said that humans can’t contract the novel coronavirus from dogs and cats, and the World Health Organization has not reported any confirmed cases of COVID-19 in pets.

“We’ve noticed many visitors coming to adopt,” Riverside County’s chief veterinarian, Dr. Allan Drusys, said in a Friday statement. “Although we cannot directly say COVID-19 is causing this, it does make some sense considering that so many people are not at work and so many school-aged children are at home. It appears families are flocking into our shelters to find that perfect comfort pet.”

According to Riverside County Animal Services, 90 dogs and 11 cats under its care were adopted on Tuesday — “much more than normal for a weekday in March.”

Amy Hutto poses with her new dog in this photo released by Riverside County Animal Services on March 20, 2020.
Amy Hutto poses with her new dog in this photo released by Riverside County Animal Services on March 20, 2020.

On Friday, Amy Hutto, whose husband serves in the U.S. Navy overseas, won a lottery to adopt a 4-year-old Maltese. Four other families were interested in adopting the dog, according to shelter officials.

Hutto said she “needed some company.”

In addition to adoption inquiries, the agency is also accepting foster applications

“We are handling adoptions more than fosters, but we love foster parents too,” spokesman John Welsh said. 

Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, city shelters said they’re reviewing foster applications “as quickly as we can” after receiving great interest from those wishing to offer temporary homes to pets. 

On Saturday, the L.A. Department of Animal Services reported receiving an “amazing response” to a callout for people willing to foster animals in the agency’s care.

“We know you are very anxious to help and we are anxious to have you help,” said the department, which operates six shelters across the city. “Thank you for your patience. We will contact you as soon as possible.”

The department had expressed the need for foster volunteers and adopters on Wednesday, a day before Mayor Eric Garcetti announced a “safer at home” order that required Angelenos to stay in.

Animal Services said it had to shut its doors to the public and suspend volunteering, but that its officers continued to find lost and injured animals.

While the facilities are closed to the public during the outbreak, those who want to apply to foster can take the following steps:

  • Select one to three animals on and jot down their animal ID number. 
  • Complete a foster application and email it to
  • Wait for a call from the agency to schedule an appointment.

People who want to adopt a pet can find more information on the L.A. Department of Animal Services website

The department encouraged those who can’t foster or adopt a pet to consider making a monetary contribution, donate to have an animal bed sent directly to one of the shelters or purchase items from the facilities’ Amazon wish lists.