Even with restrictions, adoptions steady at York County SPCA

Tina Locurto
York Dispatch
Gene Finch-Hench sits with his new dog, Kenny. Gene and his wife Pamela adopted Kenny from the York County SPCA.

Pamela Finch-Hench drove more than two hours to adopt her future furry friend, Kenny, from the York County SPCA.

Though the Cumberland County resident doesn't live nearby, she said she settled on adopting from the York County SPCA since it offered the most variety from which she and her husband, Gene, could choose.

"We knew we wanted to go through the SPCA for a dog; we didn't want to purchase," Finch-Hench said. "We went to different SPCAs, and York County had more dogs and more of what we were looking for."

Pamela and Gene Finch-Hench, of Cumberland County, recently adopted Kenny from the York County SPCA.

Despite facing new challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, the York County SPCA has seen steady rates of new pet adoptions since March, when Gov. Tom Wolf mandated a stay-at-home order, which lasted several months.

"(Adoptions) haven't dropped, because more people are at home and they need companionship," said executive director Steven Martinez. "That's one of the big struggles we're feeling today is isolation, but we still need that companionship."

Additionally, with more people at home able to look after pets, more would-be pet owners have the time to train the animals.

Though the York County SPCA has seen relatively similar demand for pet adoptions as last year, staff and volunteers have been limited in how they are able to show families what the shelter has available.

Currently, the York County SPCA is closed to the public in order to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Individuals interested in adopting a pet must first fill out an application online and schedule a visit to the shelter.

The lack of walk-in visitors though hasn't limited the number of pet adoptions, Martinez said.

So far this year, about 1,200 pets have been adopted through the York County SPCA. Last year, the shelter processed about 1,850 adoptions. 

"Given the number of animals taken into the shelter this year, the percentage of those who were adopted has increased," said SPCA spokesperson Kaila Young. "We succeeded in keeping more pets and people together."

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, officials feared that pet owners would adopt pets to cure their boredom during lockdown and later return them.

Officials at the York County SPCA said this hasn't been the case for their shelter.

 "The return-to-shelter rate is very low," Young said, adding that within the past six months, only six animals have been returned. 

The York County SPCA has worked to reduce the rate of pet returns.

Through their pet adoption process, interested owners are required to fill out details describing their specific home and work lifestyle.

"They may think they want a big dog with lots of energy, but through their application we find out they live in an apartment and work full time," Martinez said. "It allows us to have  a conversation and make a better recommendation."

Additionally, the shelter has a food pantry program to help owners struggling with food insecurity — one of the main reasons pets end up surrendered back to the shelter, he said.

Finch-Hench said the adoption process from start to finish took only a week.

"We went to meet him, and then they called us two or three days later," she said. "It was a great experience."

Throughout the course of the pandemic, Martinez said the community support of the shelter's work has been integral in its continued operation.

"All things considered, we've been OK relative to other organizations," Martinez said. "Things could have been worse, but they weren't because of the community."

— Reach Tina Locurto at tlocurto@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @tina_locurto.