Millions of animals roam around the U.S. in search of a home, and fortunately, many do find one. The rise of animal adoption centers and sanctuaries has enabled this for decades. Recently, adoption rates have increased due to COVID-19, and an animal shelter right here in Sammamish has been steadily fulfilling this robust demand.
Owned and managed by Diane Gockel, the Sammamish Animal Sanctuary cares for a variety of animals, including those that have come from abusive circumstances. The animals live on the Second Chance Ranch, where visitors are encouraged to interact with them. While the sanctuary cares for alpacas, cows, goats, donkeys, horses, ponies, ducks, pigs and sheep, it also facilitates the adoption of horses, goats and bunnies. Bunny adoptions have been brisk of late.
“Yes, we have adopted out almost all of our bunnies,” Gockel said. “Also, even though we do not take in cats and dogs, I sure have been getting a lot of calls for them.”
The sanctuary re-opened its doors on June 1 while taking precautionary measures. Hand sanitizer and a wash station have always been available to visitors, and now the business has added a single entrance and single exit to allow for social distancing. The interior of the barn has been closed, but the animals can still be seen. Therefore, anyone currently interested in visiting the animals or adopting one can drop by the Second Chance Ranch. Gockel recommends the Seattle Humane Society to anyone looking to adopt a cat or dog.
She expressed concern that this adoption trend could be temporary, and that animals may be neglected once their new owners go back to working outside their home.
“It might seem fun to have a kitten on your lap while we are stuck at home so I am hoping people will learn how wonderful it is to have an animal companion and continue to love and care for their new pet after the stay-home order is lifted,” she said.
Meanwhile, pet owners have their own observations and advice about taking care of new pets.
Maren Larsen, 17, a rising senior at Issaquah High School, is the owner of a ten-year-old cat named Shirley. Larsen describes Shirley as an affectionate outdoor cat, and has noticed the cat’s recent clinginess due to Larsen’s constant presence at home.
“If you are getting a cat, they are pretty low maintenance so you might think you do not need to interact with them much, but lots of them still really like to be played with and hugged,” Larsen said.
Sierra Martinsen, 18, a Skyline senior, owns an eight-year-old, half-Border Collie and half-Labrador Retriever named Sophie. Sophie goes to a dog daycare center where she can visit parks and interact with other dogs, and not be bored at home.
“I think that if I had a cat or another pet that stayed home all day, this new change [of staying indoors] could be distressing,” Martinsen said. “There might be some behavior issues or boredom.”
Martinsen also cautions against impulse adoptions during the pandemic. She advises owners to take the time and have patience with their new pets, especially since many dog training classes are not available right now.
Skyline junior Jocelyn Simpson, 17, has a fourteen-year-old calico cat. She advises new owners to visit the shelter and make sure they are compatible with the animal before making the decision to adopt.
“Whether they are walking up to you or interested in you, it is very important,” Simpson said.
Simpson thinks people should also learn about how to care for their pet before adopting.
“I would be worried that people who are unprepared for the work that animals come with would adopt during this time and then regret the decision later,” she said.
Simpson’s concern is not unfounded. Many like Tim Teeman of The Daily Beast have mentioned shelters’ consternation over adopted pets being returned after the stay-at-home order ends.
Gockel, from the Sammamish Animal Sanctuary, has seen too many animals that were adopted, and then abandoned or returned to the animal shelter.
“Adoption for an animal is a lifetime commitment for them,” Gockel said. “They have a hard time being uprooted and rehomed. This is why most of our animals on our farm are here for life. That is what it means to be in a sanctuary like ours.”
Gockel wants to encourage people to adopt an animal for their remaining lifespan, to provide a “forever home.”