As the Mid-South shelters in place under orders from all Shelby County municipalities, it’s a perfect time for individuals and families to consider adopting or fostering a “social distancing sidekick.”
In times of crisis, stress runs high, anxiety rises, and people can feel hopeless. With social distancing, isolation increases, as can feelings of loneliness.
A pet can help.
The National Institutes of Health says
human-animal interactions can have positive health benefits, including lower blood pressure, reduced loneliness, a decrease in stress levels and improved mood.
Memphis Animal Shelter is quickly implementing solutions to encourage more pet adoptions and fosters, including significantly reduced adoption fees and promoting their existing online adoptable pet listings.
Through March 31, MAS is offering a $20 “Social Distancing Sidekick” dog adoption special. It includes spay and neuter services, vaccinations, microchip, heartworm test, and treatment if needed. It also includes a collar, leash, and customized ID tag. There are no cats currently available.
MAS is located at 2350 Appling City Cove.
Sheltering in place means plenty of time at home to acclimate a new quarantine buddy to their new digs. It’s important to stay active while social distancing and a dog is a great excuse for a walk or run.
It’s also the perfect opportunity to teach children responsibility, caretaking, and the joy of keeping busy with a new furry family member.
Memphian Benjamin Young and his family are seeing many benefits after adopting their dog from MAS in February. Estelle was surrendered to MAS after her original family moved and abandoned her.
Young and his wife, Courtney, both grew up with dogs and wanted to teach their five children the same responsibility they’d learned as kids.
“Now Estelle follows them around the house all day. We love having her here,” he said.
Estelle also brought unexpected health benefits for Young’s wife.
“My wife is diabetic, and her sugar dropped in the middle of the night. Estelle started circling the bed, agitating her, and got her to wake up. We’re hoping she’ll do that all the time when that happens,” he said.
Young encourages other Mid-South residents to consider taking the plunge into adoption.
“Adopt a pet. They all need love. It may even surprise you like it did us,” he said.
The $20 adoption special also benefits MAS, which need to keep shelter staff at a minimum and keep potential adopters six feet apart. Ideally, they’d temporarily close the facility, but they need to find permanent or foster homes for more than 150 dogs to do so.
“Eliminating non-essential services is a critical part of disaster response,” said Alexis Pugh, director of MAS.
“If we can get the vast majority of these pets into homes and eliminate the need for as many staff members [as possible], then these city employees can perhaps help with a more critical need as we respond to this emergency in our country,” Pugh continued.
In accordance with Safer at Home guidelines, MAS also has adjusted its facility procedures. Only 10 people will be allowed in at a time for browsing and processing of adoptions and fosters. One person at a time will be allowed in the adjacent pick up area.
Guests are required to wash their hands immediately in the lobby bathroom and use hand sanitizer located throughout the building.
Courtney Young (right) and two of her children pose with their dog Estelle on Estelle's adoption day from Memphis Animal Services. MAS is running a $20 "Social Distancing Sidekick" adoption special through March 31. (Submitted)
Finding Good Homes Takes Good Landlords
A second major issue for MAS is also chronic—ensuring there are enough safe, secure, and pet-friendly households in the Memphis area.
MAS continuously advocated for more pet-friendly housing options and universal standards for pet ownership in rental properties. Surrendering due to housing instability is the second highest reason for animal intake at the shelter after behavior issues.
Pugh said housing issues included breed restrictions, weight restrictions, steep pet deposits and fees, and revisions to pet policies for existing tenants.
“... the rental community – whether that be individual landlords or a multifamily property or a corporation—has outdated practices, particularly when it comes to breed labeling and breed discrimination,” Pugh said.
For this reason, MAS doesn’t use breed labels during the adoption process.
“There’s really strong data and research out there that tells us that visual identification of a pet is not a reliable way to determine breed,” Pugh said
Pugh cited a 2015 study by The Veterinary Journal that showed veterinarians participating in the study averaged “poor to moderate success” when asked to examine and then visually identify the breeds of 120 dogs.
MAS also gives prospective pet parents a checklist of factors they need to consider before they adopt a pet to ensure that they’re meeting their landlords’ pet expectations.
MAS also promotes Memphis-area properties that are pet-inclusive.
“On a local level, for those properties that are truly pet-friendly, we try to promote them as much as possible,” Pugh said.
“If you really qualify as pet-friendly, we want to be a marketing agent for you. We are connected to pet owners in this community, and we will get you to capacity with wonderful, reliable renters who take great care of their pets.”