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Pets of the Pandemic: Finding forever homes in Southeast Wisconsin

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WAUWATOSA, Wis. (CBS 58) -- A growing number of people are discovering how pets can provide comfort and relief during these challenging times. Area animal shelters are busy connecting pets of the pandemic with foster families and forever homes.

Ashley Gilbert and her family added another member to the pack. The Wauwatosa family adopted Duncan, a 15-week-old puppy, at the end of March.

“We hadn’t planned on getting a puppy at this point. We just lost our 14-year-old beagle at the end of February so we were thinking we would probably get a dog this summer and then the whole quarantine happened and the kids were home from school indefinitely and so we just decided to go ahead and get him now,” Gilbert said.

Ashley said her kids have been a big help.

“The timing honestly just worked out perfectly,” Gilbert said.

The Gilberts are not alone in recently adopting a pet. Just ask Angela Speed from Wisconsin Humane Society (WHS) .

“I am talking to you from my own home with my dog, Sweetie Pie. She is a WHS alum and also a foster failure, which we’ve been having a lot of lately,” Speed joked.

Speed said WHS has never seen a situation like this.

“This might possibly be the first time in our 140 year history where we have shelters with no animals inside them,” speed said.

Speed said WHS’s shelter population is down 80 percent compared to April last year. She says it depends on the day but, between more people offering to foster and an increase in adoptions, some WHS facilities are without or almost without animals.

Speed said, initially, staff didn’t know what to expect with the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Starting in mid-March, when this all came down, we put out a plea to our community to help us clear our shelters and within a week we had adopted or fostered out 319 animals, virtually emptying the shelter of all animals who could leave the building,” Speed said.

Staff at Elmbrook Humane Society said, to their surprise, they haven’t seen an increase in animals needing to be surrendered during the pandemic.

And Humane Animal Welfare Society, the cat adoption ward was completely emptied out on April 20.

“I think we all recognize that our animals are a source of comfort and stress relief and a lot of families are stuck at home right now. It’s a great time to introduce a furry companion into your household. You have more time for training, more time to help them adjust to their new life and so, for a lot of families, it’s a perfect time to have another animal,” said Speed.

Back at the Gilbert’s, Duncan found his forever home.

“As of right now, everybody pretty much has the time. It’s easy to get them trained and integrated in and then when people do start going back to work, it’ll make things a lot easier,” Gilbert said.

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