Montgomery County, Maryland’s, Office of Animal Services has been undergoing major transition — in the middle of a pandemic.
The office’s executive director, Tom Koenig, told council members that he never would have believed it, “But that’s what we’re doing!”
The OAS had formerly operated under Montgomery County police and is now a stand-alone agency.
In the past fiscal year, the OAS had more than 21,000 calls for service, had a daily average of 271 animals in its care and took in 5,813 animals.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic — and the desire of people stuck at home to have some company — Koenig reported a surge in adoptions and volunteers who agreed to foster pets, caring for them on a temporary basis until they get adopted.
The total number of animals in foster care in FY20 was 451. Koenig did not specify how many of those occurred since March, when the pandemic resulted in the first round of school and business closures.
Council members Gabe Albornoz and Tom Hucker, members of the council committee that oversees the OAS operations, asked whether Koenig was worried that once more people headed back to work the agency would see animals returned to the shelter.
Koenig said OAS was prepared to see some return of animals, but told the council members, “Those adopters have made a commitment to that adoption. Once they have that animal, they love that animal and it’s not leaving, if they can help it.”
But Albornoz wondered about economic conditions that might put new pressures on pet owners — something that’s happened in past economic downturns and generated a number of cases of pets being surrendered to shelters.
Koenig said that could be a possibility, but there are also programs in OAS to assist people who find pet care suddenly too expensive.
On the matter of the attraction of adopting pets during the recent pandemic, Hucker admitted his family was not immune.
“We have a rescue kitten now and a rescue hamster, and we weren’t in the market for either one!”
Hucker said his wife had spotted information about the pets in need of a home. They were additions to his family’s mini-menagerie.
“Now we’re hamster, kitten and cat parents, along with the turtle and the fish.”
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