ANIMAL LAW

Symposium examined pandemic’s effect on homeless pets

January 11, 2021

Animal law advocacy groups saw a surge in pet adoptions during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic as more people found themselves sequestered at home and in search of companionship. While this resulted in a decline in the number of homeless dogs and cats entering animal shelters in some regions of the country, experts fear the decline in pet surrenders could be reversed as millions of families face possible eviction from their homes because of the economy’s continuing struggles and the expiration of the government eviction moratorium.

Animal law advocates will discuss tools to help keep pets out of shelters during the 9th annual Animal Shelter Law Symposium on Jan. 12.

Animal law advocates will discuss tools to help keep pets out of shelters during the 9th annual Animal Shelter Law Symposium on Jan. 12.

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“When people lose their housing, pets lose their housing. Homeless shelters and accessible sheltering for people generally do not include sheltering for pets,” said animal law attorney Katie Barnett of Lawrence, Kansas. “Those families lose their pets, and (the pets) end up in animal shelters.’’

Animal law advocates discussed tools available to them to help keep pets out of shelters during the 9th annual Animal Shelter Law Symposium on Jan. 12. The program, held virtually and sponsored by the ABA Tort Trial & Insurance Practice Section’s Animal Law Committee, dealt with mitigating housing problems for pet owners during COVID-19, understanding aspects of foster home agreements and applications, and protecting organizations from liability relating to COVID-19, among others.

Panelists also examined foster home agreements, including the ABA Pro Bono Project, which pairs volunteer lawyers with animal shelters to support foster programs to help shelters, animals and communities during the pandemic. The project provides legal support for animal shelters to establish foster programs, and to strengthen existing foster programs.  The project is designed to help divert surrendered animals to temporary boarding or foster homes until they can be returned to their families once they secure stable housing.

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