Fairfax Co. animal shelter sees ‘astounding’ uptick in pet adoptions

The Fairfax County, Virginia, animal shelter recently paired Layla with an owner.

A Fairfax County, Virginia, shelter has seen a significant increase in adoptions since stay-at-home orders were issued.

“It seems like things are happening every day,” said Amanda Novotny, the communications and outreach manager at the Fairfax County Animal Shelter.

Despite shutting down the shelter’s in-house operations last month, Novotny said it has fielded more than 300 email requests since mid-March from people looking to adopt.

“It was astounding to see this huge uptick in numbers,” Novotny said. “Going from 20 a week to 300 in a month is pretty incredible.”

The shelter also just launched its new virtual adoption process, which finalized 26 adoptions in its first week.

“We were pretty floored,” Novotny said. “Our staff has really risen to the occasion, and our adopters have been great. They’re super patient, super understanding.”

Novotny said the shelter turned to what’s called a “no contact” process to complete the physical handover of pets. A series of emails, phone calls and in-person visits with social distancing are planned before taking the final step concerning the exchange of animals.

WTOP's Ken Duffy speaks to Amanda Novotny from Fairfax County's Animal Shelter

“We either walk the dog to their car and load it into their back seat,” Novotny said, “or in the case of cats, we put the cat in a carrier, go outside, put the carrier down where they’re waiting and then they load the cat into their car. We’re really trying to be safe about things.”

The shelter recently used that method to pair an owner with a dog named Layla.

The animal was transferred from the shelter, where it was having difficult staying in the facility’s kennel, to a temporary foster owner, who was permitted by her landlord to keep the pet during the pandemic.

Novotny said that allowed the shelter to market Layla with pictures at the home. Layla was adopted Wednesday.

“I think there’s a direct correlation between the information we gathered on her in her foster home with what we were able to share with, now, her new family,” said Novotny.

So why the big surge lately? Novotny suspects it’s possibly linked to current coronavirus restrictions and guidelines, leaving people with more time to care for animals.

“I think people just have more time at home and more time to think about maybe what might be missing in their family,” said Novotny. “I think people are just looking for companionship.”

Information on adoptable animals and shelter precautions can be found on its website.

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Ken Duffy

Ken Duffy is a reporter and anchor at WTOP with more than 20 years of experience. He has reported from major events like the 2016 Democratic and Republican National Conventions, 2016 Election Night at Trump Headquarters in Midtown Manhattan and the 2007 Super Bowl in Miami.

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