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  • Writer's pictureDr. Nancie Spector

Norwalk animal shelter sees spike in adoption, fostering amid coronavirus crisis

By Erin Kayata

April 2, 2020

I was recently featured in the following article on

NORWALK — Wile E came to Norwalk from New York City Animal Control. A small, older whippet mix, he has spent over a year at the Pet Animal Welfare Society without garnering any serious adoption interest due to his shy nature.

But now, Wile E is riding out quarantine in a new home, and he’s not the only pet doing so. Since many people began social distancing to slow the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, PAWS has seen a huge spike in adoption and foster applications.

Since about March 17, the shelter received 152 applications to foster pets. At least 25 cats and 12 to 14 dogs went to permanent homes, while at least two dogs and 40 cats were taken in by foster families.

“This is may be the only joyous thing to come out of COVID-19,” PAWS executive director Ellen Simmonds said. “Some of our harder-to-adopt babies have found adoptive homes.”

Norwalk has been hit hard with by the coronavirus with 315 confirmed cases and 15 deaths as of April 1.

Simmonds said many animal shelters in the Northeast stopped doing intakes around March 17, and shifted to fosters and adoption by appointment only. Animal shelters are allowed to remain open during the statewide closing of non-essential businesses, but Simmonds said the shelters are trying to get as many animals out as possible in order to minimize the amount of staff needed in the building.

So PAWS put out a call through social media, newsletters and emails to tell people of their situation, and the response was much better than expected.

“It’s been an overwhelming response of kindness,” Simmonds said, adding what makes it even more extraordinary is the fact that PAWS has many animals that are older and less appealing to potential owners.

Dr. Nancie Spector, a clinical psychologist in New Canaan, said many people are adopting pets right now to serve as companions while they can’t see their friends and family in person.

“The people who are having the hardest time are the people who are living by themselves,” Spector said.

With only a handful of animals left in the shelter, Simmonds said her team is continuing to vet people applying to take in animals. Many are fostering indefinitely — which is different from a normal fostering situation — but Simmonds is hoping they fall in love with their foster animals, helping even more find a permanent home.

“The response from the public has been fantastic,” she said. “Companion animals help people and in this time of crisis. People want to give back and they want to be comforted. In times of isolation and loneliness, companion animals are the solution.”

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