Guardian Angels prepare for influx of pets whose owners need help due to COVID-19

An organization that cares for family pets whose owners are in hospital or otherwise unable to care for them is preparing for an influx as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Just in these last few days, we’re starting to see a little bit of an increase,” said Pam Jansen, operations manager with the Sherwood Park-based Companion Animal Welfare Society which operates the Guardian Angel program.

The program has 70 foster families available to take in pets for two to three months while their owners deal with extenuating life circumstances, ranging from ​domestic violence, military deployment, disaster relief or health, Jansen told CBC Radio’s Edmonton AM on Wednesday.

“We were unsure when the whole COVID-19 pandemic started what kind of an impact it would have on our organization. We thought maybe for hospital stays,” she said. 

“We’re seeing now … there are more people that are going into the hospital for mental health and we are now starting to see an increase of pets coming into care.”

Since 2014, the organization has provided temporary care for more than 200 animals, according to the website.

About 20 foster homes are currently available after four were filled on the weekend, Jansen said. 

The organization has put out a call for more foster homes and for donations to help with costs of fostering, including food, kitty litter and veterinary care. Pet owners who need the service are not charged, she said.

In mid-March, when the Edmonton Humane Society decided to close its facility to the public, it put out a similar call for pet foster homes to ensure it wouldn’t go over capacity. The response was so strong that by the end of that day, the organization had to close its application process.

Jansen said fostering can be a good idea for households pondering the idea of getting a permanent pet, particularly in terms of assessing time commitment and patience.

“[Our foster families] take a lot of joy and pride in knowing that they’re helping somebody, so it’s a different feeling when you’re giving them up,” she added. 

“It’s not like you’re adopting them to somebody you don’t know. You know that these people love their pets.”

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