Over­looked an­i­mals find hu­man in­ter­est

San Francisco Chronicle Late Edition - - BAY AREA - By Tony Bravo

Clariss­abelle had been in shel­ter for nearly two years — 721 days, to be ex­act. That’s an un­usu­ally long time for any an­i­mal to be in the sys­tem at the Penin­sula Hu­mane So­ci­ety & SPCA in Burlingame. But this gray tabby cat, thought to be be­tween 4 and 6 years old, had spe­cial cir­cum­stances.

She came in with a case of alope­cia that left patches of miss­ing fur. The hair had since grown back, but for a time it gave her an odd look de­spite be­ing oth­er­wise healthy. And, un­like some cats im­me­di­ately com­fort­able with new peo­ple, Clariss­abelle likes her so­cial dis­tance — ap­pro­pri­ately enough for these times. She was over­looked as peo­ple grav­i­tated to­ward other, more demon­stra­tive cats.

Then, on Satur­day, Cla

riss­abelle met Laura Krawec.

A pro­gram man­ager work­ing in fi­nance, Krawec lives alone in a 500­square­foot stu­dio apart­ment in San Ma­teo. Not only was Krawec look­ing to adopt a harder­to­place an­i­mal, she wanted one whose per­son­al­ity wouldn’t re­quire con­stant at­ten­tion in the small space as she worked from home.

So far, the two have been a mostly per­fect match. Al­ready, the cat, now named Gra­cie, has had a mea­sur­able im­pact on Krawec’s liv­ing sit­u­a­tion.

“She’s def­i­nitely made shel­ter­ing in place eas­ier even af­ter just a few days,” says Krawec. “We talk to our pets, you pay them com­pli­ments, give them nick­names. Hav­ing her here has al­ready been help­ful, even if she tried to swipe my nice sofa.”

It’s perhaps not sur­pris­ing that dur­ing a time of greater re­stric­tions on gath­er­ings and so­cial in­ter­ac­tion, peo­ple would turn to pets to fill that void. But with shel­ter­in­place or­ders in ef­fect, adopt­ing a pet isn’t al­ways as ac­ces­si­ble as it once was. For in­stance, the adop­tion cen­ter in Burlingame is now open on a more lim­ited, byap­point­ment ba­sis, with the doors usu­ally locked. But there has been a ben­e­fit to this: More se­ri­ous prospec­tive pet par­ents are visit­ing the cen­ter seek­ing com­pan­ion­ship dur­ing the shel­ter­in­place or­der. It’s a change in op­er­a­tions that is giv­ing some over­looked an­i­mals a sec­ond chance.

“Peo­ple who make ap­point­ments al­most al­ways leave with an an­i­mal,” says Buffy Martin Tar­box, com­mu­ni­ca­tions man­ager for the mul­ti­pronged an­i­mal care or­ga­ni­za­tion. “Es­pe­cially this past week and a half, we’ve had a spike in adop­tions.”

At the East Bay SPCA in Oak­land, adop­tions have been sus­pended dur­ing the COVID­19 shut­down. But in­ter­est in fos­ter­ing pets has been up since the shel­ter­in­place or­der. Mar­ket­ing man­ager Kelcy Spaete re­ports nearly 100 shel­ter an­i­mals have al­ready been moved into fos­ter homes since the or­der. They are con­fi­dent that they will be able to tem­po­rar­ily house more due to the out­pour­ing of com­mu­nity in­ter­est.

The San Fran­cisco SPCA has also had to sus­pend pet adop­tions dur­ing shel­ter in place, but there is cur­rently a wait­ing list of more than 1,000 peo­ple ready to fos­ter an­i­mals, says SPCA Pres­i­dent Dr. Jennifer Scar­lett.

“We know pets bring so much mean­ing to peo­ple and the hu­man com­mu­nity,” Scar­lett says. “It’s about how to safely do this at a strange, crazy time.”

While nav­i­gat­ing the evolv­ing con­di­tions of shel­ter in place, the Bay Area SPCAs are also brac­ing for what the fu­ture may bring. If the econ­omy goes into a COVID­19 re­lated down­turn, it’s pos­si­ble that do­na­tions to the or­ga­ni­za­tions will also take a hit, ac­cord­ing to Scar­lett.

The San Fran­cisco SPCA al­ready had to post­pone its an­nual fundraiser this year and there is a con­cern that in an eco­nomic re­ces­sion, there may be an in­crease of peo­ple sur­ren­der­ing an­i­mals due to fi­nan­cial hard­ship. The shel­ter­in­place or­der also hap­pened at a qui­eter time of year for or­ga­niz­ers ahead of spring “kitty sea­son,” when there are gen­er­ally more sur­ren­ders of new lit­ters of cats, some­thing the or­ga­ni­za­tions are also brac­ing for.

Even though Krawec was al­ready con­sid­er­ing get­ting a cat, she says the shel­ter­in­place or­der made an­i­mal com­pan­ion­ship more ur­gent and likely pushed her into tak­ing the step to­ward full pet adop­tion. Gra­cie has even be­come more so­cial with her over the past few days.

“Part of why I usu­ally com­mute into an office is be­cause I en­joy the in­ter­ac­tion,” says Krawec. “My friends think this is great, too. Gra­cie is un­der the bed now but she was just in my lap.”

Brian Feul­ner / Spe­cial to The Chron­i­cle

Bingo plays with a toy at the Penin­sula Hu­mane So­ci­ety and SPCA in Burlingame.

Brian Feul­ner / Spe­cial to The Chron­i­cle

Ja­son Perez and Lind­sey Blair in­ter­act with Bindi at the Penin­sula Hu­mane So­ci­ety and SPCA in Burlingame.

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