Homes for pets are in urgent need as coronavirus shuts down animal shelters

Paige Engard of Lollypop Farm visits Maynard, a 10-year-old mix, in Fairport, New York. The shelter is waiving adoption fees amid the coronavirus crisis. By Alisha Ebrahimji, CNN

(CNN) -- Animal shelters across the US are making the hard decision to close their doors to the public because of the coronavirus pandemic.

As more people are being told to stay home nationwide, shelters and humane societies are trying to place as many animals in homes as quickly as possible.

In Philadelphia, for example, Morris Animal Refuge closed to the public Tuesday until further notice.

"The most important part of this is getting the animals out of the shelter and into homes whether it be temporarily or permanently," Carly Gove, a Morris volunteer coordinator and marketing assistant, told CNN. "Our community has been so great already."

Gove estimates the shelter started with about 40 animals and now, a few days later, it's left with six cats, four guinea pigs and two gerbils. Five potential adopters were scheduled to come in Wednesday, she said.

Until state and city restrictions are lifted, the shelter will not accept stray animals, owner surrenders, or animal transfers from other locations.

All six Los Angeles Animal Services Centers are closed through March 31, according to a community alert from LA Animal Services.

For people interested in fostering or adopting, shelters are offering discounts and, in some cases, free adoptions to get their animals into safe homes. Many shelters that are closed to the public are offering one-on-one appointments.

The Humane Society of West Michigan remains open by appointment only and is attempting to do all paperwork car side to limit people entering the building, its website says.

The Jacksonville Humane Society in Florida is waiving adoption fees for anyone who donates a bag of pet food, hand sanitizer, or toilet paper to the shelter.

People who can't adopt or foster an animal are still free to donate money or supplies.

From fostering to adopting

Gia Pagano had been thinking about adopting a dog for some time but wanted to give fostering a try before she committed. That's when Riesling, an 8-week-old hound mix, entered her life.

Pagano worked with Morris to foster Riesling for two weeks, but due to health issues, Pagano had Riesling longer than anticipated. Now the pup is about to be 4 months old.

"My plan was always to adopt Riesling but with the shelter trying to clear out, I'm sure they're (the shelter) happy this process is expedited," she said.

In the time they've spent together, Pagano said, Riesling has become part of her family and parting ways just isn't an option especially at a time like this.

"Riesling's brother Jack is still in there, and because of what's going on, I volunteered to take her brother, too," she said. "Which is crazy. I can't adopt him because I have Riesling, but I can take him if they (the shelter) need me to temporarily."

No evidence that you can get coronavirus from pets

You may have heard that your cat or dog could give you coronavirus.

Here's why that's not so simple. A dog in Hong Kong was infected, but experts agreed it was likely a case of human-to-animal transmission.

Right now there is simply "no evidence that pet animals can be a source of infection of COVID-19 or that they can become sick," a spokesman for Hong Kong's Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) said.

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