Big Guy is pretty happy about COVID-19.

It meant he was brushed daily, given treats, and was the sole focus of a handful of Dane County Humane Society staff.

With animal intakes down under the coronavirus pandemic restrictions, the horse was lapping up being the center of attention.

But don’t worry — Big Guy is expected to go home soon, just like every other animal up for adoption at Dane County Humane Society.

“People staying home during COVID-19 think this is a perfect time to bring home a pet, so the few animals we have had have gone home pretty quickly,” said Amy Good, Dane County Humane Society (DCHS) Development and Marketing Director.

It’s still possible to adopt animals but the procedures have changed a bit. First, people are pre-screened to make sure the animals are going to the right home. Once that’s done, people can meet their potential pets.

“People can set up and appointment and go home with the animal the same day,” Good said, noting that animal shelters were an essential business under Gov. Evers Safer at Home order.

DCHS has adapted to the pandemic with only emergency surrenders being accepted. So strays or pets whose owners have died have been taken into the shelter.

For people who don’t have an emergency surrender and are having problems with their pets — such as barking, bathroom accidents, and behavior problems — Good said the DCHS offers tips and advice to curtail the animal’s behavior.

If that doesn’t work, the DCHS has a waitlist for surrenders until a new home can be found. Good said it’s always been a goal of the humane society to keep animals out of shelters if possible and the COVID-19 restrictions have brought that to the forefront,

“A lot of animals never need to enter a shelter in the first place,” Good said. “They can either go to a new home once one is found or we can offer resources for people to keep their animals.

She said most pet owners on the surrender waitlist have either found a new home for their pets or decided to keep them.

There’s also help for people who are struggling financially to keep their pets because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Dane County Humane Society staff has delivered dog and cat food to pet owners and also supplies pet food to the Community Action Coalition for distribution.

“People should not have to give up their pets for economic reasons, and if we can prevent it, we will,” Good said. “With the social isolation of the COVID-19 safer at home order, this is not the right time for people to give up the pets they love.”

Dane County Humane Society has also stopped taking animals from overcrowded shelters in southern states because of COVID-19 restrictions on interstate travel.

While pet intakes are limited, the DCHS is seeing a 20 percent increase in the intake of wild animals that are sick, injured, or abandoned and have no place to go. The Dane County Humane Society has one of few wildlife centers in the state and serves 20 counties.

Good isn’t sure why the wildlife intakes are up but she said people can help out by not disturbing animals in the wild.

“Before someone brings in a wild animal, they should contact us first,” Good said. “If people think that a baby animal has been abandoned, it may be that the mother is away for a while and is coming back.”

COVID-19 has impacted the humane society too by limiting its revenue. The DCHS Thrift Store, that supports shelter operations, has been closed for now but is set to reopen in the future in a new larger location on Madison’s west side.

DCHS’s biggest annual fundraiser, the Toto’s Gala, was shifted online and Good said it able to bring in just as much money as usual. But more is needed to support the Dane County Humane Society mission.

“We do not get funding from the government, so we rely on the community to help support us,” Good said.

That money will help buy some hay and treats for Big Guy until he finds a home.

For more information about adopting an animal at the Dane County Humane Society during the COVID-19 pandemic, visit www.giveshelter.org or call (608) 838-0413.

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