If ever there was a time that demonstrates the unquestionable bond between humans and animals and the essential role animal companions play in our lives, now is that time. As the pandemic swept across the globe, bringing fear, uncertainty, and anxiety into our lives, reports of people turning to their pets for comfort have became commonplace.
When Animal Care Centers of NYC (ACC) announced in March a need for 200 new foster families to help manage the shelters’ population during the city’s shutdown, 2,000 people answered the call. Some wanted to foster. Others wanted to adopt. Mirroring reports from across the country, the number of fosters and adoptions have skyrocketed as newly hunkered-down humans sought out the ideal antidote for anxiety — a furry, four-legged family member.
NYC Emergency Management’s Animal Planning Task Force, which guides the city’s response to emergencies involving animals (and in which the Alliance has participated since its inception in 2006) demonstrated NYC’s recognition of the critical role the human-animal bond plays in the lives of thousands of New York City pet owners during these extraordinary times. The task force has worked to preserve that bond during these uncertain times by instituting various support initiatives], including a COVID-19 Pet Hotline, food giveaways, and hands-on support for pet owners infected with the virus. Christine Kim, Senior Community Liaison for the Mayor’s Office of Animal Welfare, recently described the city’s commitment to maintaining the human-animal bond: “In order to keep people and their animals together, we have ensured that animals are included in the safety net we have created for all New Yorkers.”
Over the past months, the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals has been contacted by many New Yorkers about a range of issues demonstrating their deep connections with their pets. One grieving pet owner, Sarah, contacted us to let us know that her little white dog, Mason, who she and her husband Neil had adopted at Adoptapalooza in 2013, had recently crossed the Rainbow Bridge. The family was heartbroken, and wanted to honor Mason’s memory by donating his unopened food, puppy pads, and other supplies to help a dog in need. Several days later, Sarah and Neil rescued a stranded baby sparrow nestling on the curb near their apartment and took her it to the Wild Bird Fund. As a tribute to their beloved companion, they asked that the Wild Bird Fund name the fledgling “Mason.”
Words sometimes cannot fully convey the deep and powerful bond that exists between humans and animals. Actions, however, can bring that remarkable connection to life. During these extremely challenging times, it’s important to celebrate those actions and recognize how potent the human-animal bond is in all of our lives.