Humans staying home is good news for Metro Detroit shelter dogs

Working from home means more people are available to foster, and stay-at-home order gives volunteers extra time to network on behalf of adoptable dogs

Melody Baetens
The Detroit News

If you're going to spend the next few weeks at home, why not have a furry friend to keep you company. 

Last week more than 130 dogs and cats were walked out of the Detroit Animal Care and Control shelter, and most went into foster homes. Workers and volunteers saw a large increase in available foster families because more people in Metro Detroit are staying home from work and school amid the COVID-19 social distancing measures. 

Rhett was one of the last dogs to leave the Detroit Animal Care and Control shelter this week. He's in a foster home now and is expected to be adopted by the end of the week.

"All eligible dogs are currently out of the shelter in foster homes," said Friends of Detroit Animal Care and Control board member Kelsey Ravin. 

Eighty-two animals went to foster homes between March 16 and Sunday, mostly dogs but a few cats, she said.

"Another 38 dogs were transferred to one of DACC's approved transfer partners — rescues and other shelters — 14 dogs were returned to their owners, and 24 dogs and one cat were officially adopted." 

Most of the animals were picked up by humans looking to foster them directly from the shelter, which is on the Interstate 75 service drive just north of East Grand Boulevard in Detroit. A few pups, though, were fostered out via the "Cuddle Shuttle," the DACC's shelter-to-home foster an adoption transport program. 

DACC volunteer Tiffany Perkins of Royal Oak took home one of the last dogs in the shelter. She's fostering Rhett, a tan-and-white Staffordshire Terrier.

"He was a stray and his hold came up, so he was one of the last dogs left," said Perkins, who also volunteers at the shelter and said interest in foster pets and adoptions has been up this week. She'll keep Rhett at her house with her two Maltese dogs; adoption requests are already coming in from dog lovers hoping to make him an official part of their households. 

"He's such a sweet boy, I got really lucky," said Perkins, saying young Rhett has seven meet-and-greets pending and she predicts he'll be adopted by the end of this week. 

Perkins said that it's not just people being at home that has led to an uptick in interest in fostering and adoption, it's also because people are looking at social media more with the stay-at-home order, so the word is spreading about which dogs are available, with photos and details about their personality and history. 

Tiffany Perkins and her foster dog Rhett who takes the spotlight from her dog George Clooney, on left, at her home in Royal Oak, Michigan on March 24, 2020.

"This is my second foster since (the coronavirus pandemic), I had a dog, Adalie, and within a few days she was adopted out because I had a lot more time to do social media networking," she said. "We're getting a larger audience and a lot of people are at home, so they're able to take it on right now. 

"Our goal is not to send any of them back to the shelter," she said. 

The stay-at-home order is also leaving many people home alone without companionship. 

"Shelter dogs are starving for affection," she said. "A lot of people that live alone, for them it's a great way to have that affection and attention at home. Creating a routine around a dog, you don't have a routine with work, so they have this dog they can create a routine around."

Adalie said the shelter has received good feedback about how shelter dogs help people with anxiety and depression, which can worsen in isolating conditions like this. 

There is a worry that when things return to normal that the shelter may see a wave of animals return. Perkins and other volunteers are using this time away from day jobs to ramp up efforts to get as many dogs as they can adopted permanently. 

Tiffany Perkins and her foster dog Rhett at her home in Royal Oak, Michigan on March 24, 2020.

"We've all been trying to push taking great pictures, and really great bios and getting that network connected before we're all back to work, so we're starting with a clean slate." 

While the Detroit Animal Care and Control shelter is bark-free, those looking to foster a dog this month should contact another area shelter directly. Perkins and Ravin recommend reaching out to suburban shelters and rescue groups.

Twitter: @melodybaetens