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UPAWS works to empty shelter

Prince is a 1-year-old terrier, American pit bull mix available for adoption at the Upper Peninsula Animal Welfare Shelter. Adoption fees for dogs are just $25 today. (Photo courtesy of UPAWS)

MARQUETTE — The most likely impact of COVID-19 on animal shelters is a trend of average or increased intakes combined with reduced foster, adoption and rescue outcomes, which can quickly lead to overcrowding, according to the National Animal Care Association.

With the progression of the pandemic, the Upper Peninsula Animal Welfare Shelter has been working to reduce the number of pets in the shelter.

Through the end of the business day today, UPAWS is offering adoption specials as part of the Bissell Pet Foundation’s Empty the Shelters Emergency Relief adoption event.

Dogs can be adopted for $25 while the adoption fees for cats and other small animals such as bunnies are waived.

UPAWS community outreach and volunteer coordinator Ann Brownell encouraged the community to consider adopting now as most people are spending more time at home.

“The more that we get into homes the better. And what a perfect time it would be to bring in a new pet and you’d have the time to spend with it since you’re homebound and train your dog and get some love from a kitty cat,” Brownell said. “Animals really reduce stress. It gives you something else to put your mind on, gives you something else to take care of. And they love you unconditionally; and at this time especially, what better way to have unconditional love.”

Adoptions are being done by appointment only. To set up a time to adopt, call the shelter at 906-475-6661 or visit upaws.org and use SignUpGenius to schedule an appointment.

While UPAWS could have continued the Empty the Shelters event, like many other shelters that were participating, it chose to end the event so others could partake, she said.

“We could have done another week but I didn’t want us to be greedy because there’s other shelters that didn’t get to do the Bissell event that are much more full than us. So we’re going to give up our spot and give it to somebody else who needs it more than we do because Bissell only has so much money to go around,” Brownell said. “A lot of shelters in Michigan are doing that. (It’s) wonderful that a huge amount said: ‘give up our spot and give it to someone else who needs it,’ because they’re extending this into other states who are desperately in need also.”

Animal shelter staff are considered essential under the governor’s orders and a skeleton crew of employees will be working to care for the animals, but the goal has been to get as many pets into homes as possible during the “Stay Home, Stay Safe” period, Brownell said.

Twelve animals were adopted Monday. On Tuesday, one dog and four cats — some that had been at UPAWS for months — found forever homes.

“It’s great that … there is good that comes out of it,” Brownell said. ” Our community coming forward and opening their homes to some of these animals that really need their help. I’m just amazed — I mean truly amazed — with our community in such a crisis of a time. You see our community really coming through not only for the animals, but for so many things. In our case, we are really grateful even if they can’t adopt that they’re sharing our posts and supporting us with comments. It’s really uplifting.”

Due to available space at the shelter during this time, UPAWS reminds pet owners not to surrender their pets unless it’s an emergency as the shelter could quickly become overcrowded.

“We ask that if the need to surrender is not urgent, please hold off during this pandemic crisis period so that our facility can respond to true emergency situations that arise in this time of crisis,” a UPAWS Facebook post reads. “We can not take intake that is not a legitimate emergency! We CAN not risk overcrowding!”

At this time, UPAWS will continue with pet adoptions by appointment, though potential plans for virtual adoptions are being discussed, Brownell said.

Community members can always sign up to foster pets, she added. The sign up process can be completed online by visiting the UPAWS Foster Care Program tab on upaws.org. Those interested will watch a 20-minute video, take a short quiz and then fill out a survey to apply for foster care. Even if there are no animals for foster presently, it’s good to have people prepared for when it is needed, Brownell said.

Questions can be directed to Brownell at volunteer@upaws.org. For more information visit the UPAWS website or the Upper Peninsula Animal Welfare Shelter on Facebook.

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