The sound of silence: Dogs no longer in stock at Attleboro animal shelter with pandemic adoptions | Coronavirus

ATTLEBORO – This is a virtual dog wasteland off Pond Street North where the town’s animal shelter is located.

The coronavirus pandemic has caused a shortage of dogs, so kennels have been converted for human use – just kidding – on humans – not on dogs.

A Facebook photo taken at the shelter a day or two ago showed volunteers in the kennels stomping on the chain link and not a dog to be seen – anywhere.

They had nothing to do except wait for someone to adopt them.

The shelter adopted its only incarcerated dog a day or two ago and all the barking, growling, yelping, jumping, tail wagging, pooping and peeing have since ceased.

Animal control officer Butch Keefer said the situation was “a bit bizarre”.

He said the shelter’s dog population dwindled after the pandemic began two years ago and is now down to zero, meaning 20 empty kennels.

Before the pandemic, there was usually a population of at least eight to 10 dogs at any given time.

Once the pandemic hit in March 2020, the population dwindled to four or five at a time, and last year it dropped to three or four.

Keefer said the number of people ditching their adorable pooches has dropped significantly, likely because so many people are working from home.

He said dogs and people are happy to have each other’s company, especially dogs.

When people are home, dogs are happier and better behaved and less likely to be sent to jail for various crimes of destruction.

But when they’re alone all day, they get restless, bored, and that’s when their destructive nature can emerge, much like humans.

A sofa can be torn.

Shoes or clothes are sometimes chewed up beyond recognition – that sort of thing.

But it’s hard to blame the dog.

They can’t, and in fact don’t want to, watch TV, search the Internet, or stare at an iPhone all day like other people do. They want to come out and sniff to see what’s going on, wander around, chase a ball, or bark at a stranger.

And if they can’t get out, sometimes there can be an unpleasant cleaning operation.

This, unfortunately, sometimes results in a trip to the shelter, or as a dog may interpret it, the prison, where they tell their tail, oops, tales of woe to other inmates.

But it all almost stopped, Keefer said.

“People giving up dogs have been really slow,” he said. “There aren’t many dogs coming in at all.”

Then silence descended on the shelter.

It must be a pleasant respite for as long as it lasts.

Kim Penque, one of the volunteers who has worked at the shelter for years, described the silence as “a bit strange”.

“I’ve never experienced zero dogs at the shelter,” she said. “It’s been quite different, very calm.”

She said she agreed with Keefer that people working from home have helped keep dogs in homes, but added that volunteers have started a new program to help dog owners with issues that encouraged them to abandon their animals.

“If we have the ability to keep pets in good, loving homes, we decided that’s what we should be doing,” Penque said.

This has helped reduce the dog population, she said.

Keefer said he and Carolyn Eaton, his assistant, always picked up strays or escapees, but usually returned home within a few days.

And for those wondering about the cat population, that occupancy rate hasn’t gone down as much as it has for dogs.

Penque said there are plenty of cats that need a good home.

But cats aren’t as loud as their canine cohorts, so the silence isn’t disturbed.

And they tend to tolerate loneliness better, curled up in a cozy corner to sleep in all day.

“It’s weird not seeing a dog here,” Keefer said. “But that’s a good thing, not a bad thing.”

George W Rhodes can be reached at 508-236-0432.

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