NBC's annual Clear the Shelters event worked differently this year due to COVID-19 restrictions, but San Diego came on strong, finding forever homes for more than 1,000 animals
In previous years, NBC’s Clear the Shelters was basically one big, busy day. Thousands of people flocking to shelters across San Diego and adopting pets, but COVID-19 forced local shelters to change their ways for this event.
Dr. Gary Weitzman, the president and C.E.O. of the San Diego Humane Society, described the changes to local shelter this way: “All of us are open, but in much different ways: by appointment, timed entries, working on the curb, drive-through car service, all things we never even imagined we’d be doing six months ago.”
The new way of adopting pets also includes viewing pets online, virtual adoptions and online pet-counseling sessions -- that’s how John and Neota Bradley ended up with a new furry friend.
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“I was on Amazon for something, and we ended up adopting Jack,” Neota told NBC 7.
“He’s our first shelter cat!” John added.
The Bradleys are not alone, it turns out virtual adoptions are surprisingly popular.
“Doing it online, by phone and really doing personal valet service for animals has really shot up our adoption numbers,” Weitzman said.
The San Diego Humane Society has found forever homes for more than 1,000 pets during this Clear the Shelters month -- and it’s not just cats and dogs. Rabbits, birds, even rats are being adopted.
Thousands of animals were adopted from all the area’s participating shelters during August. Experts believe that COVID-19 restrictions may actually have led to an increase in adoptions, since people are home more, or working from home, so they have more time to care for a pet. Many people are lonely due to social isolation during Covid-19, and pets are wonderful companions.
“We all need unconditional love right now, and we know the best place to get that is from a dog or cat," Weitzman said. "Of course, if it’s a cat, it’s when they want to give it to you.”
Whether adoptions are online or in person, it’s still emotional, especially for the longtime animal advocates who’ve dedicated their lives to finding these animals their forever homes.
John Van Zante of the Rancho Coastal Humane Society gave up his previous career 21 years ago to work in animal welfare.
“I have seen thousands of people walk out the door with a new dog, cat or rabbit, and I can tell you, 21 years later, every time it still gets me right here in the heart," Van Zante said. "I can tell you just changed the world for that animal, for the mom, dad, kids. You gave them a sense of responsibility and accomplishment that they only get from having an animal.”
NBC’s Clear the Shelters event runs through the end of August.