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Adoptions doubled at Hawkins animal shelter after COVID-19 quarantines began

Jeff Bobo • Apr 1, 2020 at 2:00 PM

ROGERSVILLE — The Hawkins County Humane Society is always a hectic place, but adoptions and contributions have more than doubled since the COVID-19 crisis hit.

The Times News spent about an hour at the animal shelter in Rogersville Tuesday.

During that time, a woman was reunited with her escaped dog, Ada, for the second time; two significant contributions of pet food were delivered; a stray kitten was dropped off and immediately named Mittens; and a letter arrived containing a cash donation from a couple who had driven all the way from Canada last week to adopt a border terrier named Cooper.

The couple were so pleased with Cooper that they sent their leftover U.S. currency, about $35, as a donation to the shelter.

That was just one hour of one day, but it’s like that every hour of every day at the HCHS.

Adoption increase coincided with quarantines

HCHS manager Sandy Behnke told the Times News Tuesday that an upswing in adoptions and contributions began almost immediately after families began going into quarantine earlier this month.

Usually the shelter averages one to two adoptions per day, but throughout March that has increased to three to five per day.

On March 1, the shelter had 50 dogs. As of Tuesday, only 15 were left.

There’s also been a major upswing in cat adoptions. Exact numbers for the month weren’t available, but Behnke noted that there are empty cages in the cat sanctuary, which has never happened before.

“People are coming in wanting to adopt dogs, to foster animals, and our cats are being adopted more than we’ve ever seen,” Behnke said. “We actually have empty kennels in the shelter at this time, which has never happened before. We’ve always been at capacity. For the first time in a long time we’ve got empty kennels in all rooms: in the cat room, the puppy room, and dogs. That’s never happened.”

After 275 days, Trooper finds a home

“I feel that people want to step up and help the community some way,” Behnke added. “People are stuck at home. They have their kids at home. Families are together. They want to bring something into their house to feel like they’re doing something. To take an animal out of the shelter that’s been here a long time is just an amazing thing.”

One of the happier stories that arose from this surge of activity was the adoption of Trooper, a 10-year-old dog who was the shelter’s longest tenured resident at 275 days.

Trooper’s owner died last year, and then the owner’s son went to jail, leaving the dog to fend for himself.

A neighbor across the road from Trooper’s home on Route 70N near Rogersville was feeding him, but one day last April Trooper was hit by a car while crossing that highway.

HCHS officials were told that Trooper would never walk again, but shelter staffer Eddie Hutchinson, who had rescued Trooper on the highway, nursed him back to health.

Shelter staffer Haleigh Davidson said Trooper was adopted by a Kingsport woman who saw him on the HCHS Facebook page.

“We started doing a ‘Dog and Cat of the Day,’ and he was our dog of the day, and he got adopted that day,” Davidson said. “She saw him online and came and got him. His golden years will be the best he’s ever had.”

Cooper trades U.S. citizenship for a new home

Another happy story was the adoption of Cooper, who was among six starving animals rescued from a Mooresburg residence in November.

Last week the 5-year-old border terrier was adopted by a couple who drove from Ontario, Canada, to get him.

“They saw him on Petfinder,” Davidson said. “He was a big, tall, shaggy terrier dog. They saw him on Petfinder, and we answered their questions, and they drove all the way from Canada and took him back.”

Aside from sending their leftover American currency, the Canadian couple also sent a letter to the HCHS stating, “My husband and I adopted Cooper a week ago, and he is settling in very well in our home in Canada.”

Some satisfied cat adopters

“We had a family come in a few days ago, and they adopted not one, but two cats,” Davidson said. “They were so ecstatic they stayed for over an hour talking to us and playing with the cats. Then they came back like two days later and bought the staff pizza and got all kinds of donations for the animals they were so pleased with their adoption.”

Although the shelter’s adoptions are up, plenty of dogs and cats are available.

The HCHS remains open Tuesday-Saturday from noon to 4 p.m. The shelter is asking people to call ahead and schedule an appointment if they want to look at the dogs and cats that are up for adoption.

Social distancing guidelines are enforced, and only one or two members of the public are allowed in the shelter at one time. 

Behnke said she foresees the possibility that the shelter might have to close due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Foster homes needed if shelter shuts down

In the event that a shutdown happens, Behnke is asking the public to consider fostering a dog or cat temporarily.

“If it comes down to that, we want people to foster some of the animals so i’'s not too much on whoever has to come in and take care of the animals here,” Behnke said.

For more information about fostering, adoption, or making contributions, call the HCHS at (423) 272-6538. You can also learn more about the shelter by visiting its Facebook page.

The shelter is located at 5180 Highway 11-W, Rogersville, TN 37857, and contributions by mail are encouraged.

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