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Home Editor's Picks Coronavirus spurs increase in pet adoptions in the Berkshires

Coronavirus spurs increase in pet adoptions in the Berkshires

Berkshire Humane Society served more than 200 vehicles at their pet food bank drive-thru. (Berkshire Humane Society)

PITTSFIELD — The global pandemic has caused the closure of schools and businesses, people to swarm grocery stores for toilet paper and even adopt pets.
Over the course of two weeks, the Berkshire Humane Society processed 48 adoptions, according to John Perreault, executive director of the Pittsfield-based nonprofit organization.
“We’re way up for adoptions,” said Perreault. “There’s no doubt that our increase in adoptions is because people are home now. There’s more time to train and spend time with an animal. It’s a great time to bring a pet into a home.”
The adoption process has shifted to appointment-only with applications being accepted online and followed up with a phone call. The shelter remains closed to the public. As of Friday, Perreault said there were four dogs and 15 cats as well as some guinea pigs and bunnies left at the facility.
And while adoptions are on the rise, so are requests for assistance. To assist in this growing need, the Berkshire Humane Society held its first-ever drive-thru pet food bank last Friday, April 17.
The pet food bank opened at 10 a.m. and by 11 a.m., the facility ran out of almost everything, said Catherine Hibbard, marketing communications manager for the facility.
“We served about 200 vehicles today, many of which were for multiple households and pets. We gave out about 150 coupons to redeem from our food bank at a later date because we ran out of almost everything by 11 a.m.!” said Hibbard in a statement. “People came early and we serviced them through to keep traffic moving. It was backed up on Barker Road during the rush … We also delivered or will deliver to 30 people who were in self quarantine or otherwise could not make it to the food drive today. We heard many heartfelt thanks from people who were grateful to get help to feed their pets.”
Each year, the society receives 1,100 requests for pet food from owners who are experiencing financial difficulties, said Perreault. The pet food bank was first established in 1987.
A Berkshire Humane Society employee in personal protective equipment took the order and loaded the food requested. Those that utilized the service were not required to leave their car or give their name.
“Because of the generosity of our community and four pallets of food donated by Purina, our pet food was well-stocked,” said Perreault. “The COVID-19 pandemic has created financial hardship for many people who have never been in this position before and they may be embarrassed to ask for help.”
Because there are less animals at the facility, that also means there are less volunteers to care for them. A good portion of the volunteers also happen to be older and retired. Perreault said that several began social distancing early on and voluntarily opted not to come in.
Staff at Berkshire Humane Society has been cut back to primarily full-time personnel. Roughly 12 people have been laid off as a result of coronavirus, leaving approximately four office staff, said Perrault. The facility is on a spending freeze and management is also taking a cut in pay to cover expenses, he added.
The cut in staff also meant a cut to programming that brought in revenue for the facility, such as the family dog school. Perrault estimates that the financial impact to the Berkshire Humane Society, which has an annual budget of $1.5 million, could be a minimum of $150,000.
The facility has applied for assistance through the Paycheck Protection Program as well as a few grants.
Looking beyond the era of coronavirus and quarantine, Perrault says Berkshire Humane Society may consider beefing up its online presence to sell apparel through Catwalk Boutique and offer remote training through the family dog school.
“The biggest challenge we have right now is trying to anticipate people’s changing needs. What happens if we can’t hold summer camp? That’s a challenge we’re working on now,” said Perreault. “Will shopping even return to the world we once knew? There’s a lot of unknowns.”

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