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Foster families step up during pandemic
‘We want to be helping more animals’
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Spike, a 3-year-old Anatolian Shepherd, watches carefully as Allie Purser signs the adoption papers to take him home May 4 at the Green County Humane Society in Monroe. Those looking to adopt a pet can inquire by calling 608-325-9600 or emailing - photo by Brenda Steurer

MONROE — At full capacity, the Green County Humane Society has the ability to house at least 45 dogs and around 135 cats, but right now, the shelter is nearly empty. 

There aren’t many dogs and cats up for adoption. Instead, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and “Safer at Home” restrictions, the shelter is getting fewer pets that need adoption. Also, members of the community have offered to serve as foster families for pets that had been in the shelter. 

“We’re thankful to the families who have stepped up. It’s a real blessing for all of us,” Erin Emery, Green County Humane Society operations manager said. 

And although that’s good news, Emery said the shelter wishes it had more animals to offer those looking to adopt pets at this time. Part of the shelter’s low numbers are because for the last two years the Green County Humane Society has taken in dogs from southern states every four to six weeks. There, shelters are full and the demand is higher for dogs here, she said. 

“It’s rare we have a dog longer than three or four weeks,” Emery said. 

As of last week, there was just a single dog at the shelter who was posted up for adoption and a handful of cats, there for specific reasons. Even as “kitten season” approaches, the time of year when many litters of kittens are born, Emery said they’ve seen less come in.

Last year at this time, the humane society had received a transfer of dogs, making the years hard to compare. Last year from March 1 to May 4, the humane society took in 47 cats and 77 dogs, and in 2020 during the same period brought in 54 cats and 37 dogs.

As for adoptions, last year from March 1 to May 4 the shelter adopted out 44 cats and 52 dogs. During the same time period this year, 40 cats and 47 dogs were adopted. Although that number is lower in 2020 — Emery said it has more to do with supply than anything. 

We’re thankful to the families who have stepped up. It’s a real blessing for all of us.
Erin Emery, Green County Humane Society operations manager

“I think the general consensus is that here at the humane society we want to be helping more animals,” Emery said. She has reached out to Birmingham, Alabama, and is hoping that Green County will receive a transfer of dogs soon. Things have been on hold because of the coronavirus, but Green County is ready for them. 

“We’re waiting on the states to clear us,” she said. “We want to start saving dogs again.”

After details of the coronavirus were released, Emery said the humane society board recognized its seriousness and decided to close the facility. A little more than a week later, foster coordinator Kate Leverton and Emery had locked in families to foster almost all of the animals. She said the facility went from housing 36 cats to 8 and from three dogs to none. 

People can still adopt pets by scheduling adoption appointments and staff members are there every day to care for the animals and check messages. 

Staff hours were reduced and many have remained on call since that time, Emery said. 

“I wish we had more (pets available for adoption),” Emery said. “I would want more animals and I want our staff back to work.”

Although some shelters in other states are limited because of a lack of vet services during the COVID-19 outbreak, Emery said that isn’t an issue for Green County. They have a relationship with Precision Veterinary in Madison and work closely with Dr. Liz Holcomb, of Argyle, who volunteers for emergent needs and health calls for the local humane society.

Fostering a pet

The fostering system in place at Green County Humane Society is very strong currently, Emery said, because of many families that are home and have offered to take in pets. 

“I hope this continues for years and years to come,” Emery said.

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Allie Purser visits with Spike to see if he is a good fit to bring home. - photo by Brenda Steurer

As the humane society accepts strays and surrenders from people as well as local police departments, they are evaluated and within 24 hours are placed in a foster home that suits them. The humane society covers all costs surrounding fostering a pet, including food, bedding, toys, litter, bowls, etc. that are all given when the pet is picked up, Emery said. 

Currently, there are about 30-40 families offering foster care to cats. Dog fostering just began in 2019, she said, and went from just a few up to 20 families recently. 

“I really think because of this time, people are looking at how they can help in their local community,” Emery said. 

Fostering is a big benefit to the humane society, she said. It allows people to learn about certain quirks animals might have — for example, if they prefer a specific gender or if they are known for scratching up furniture — to let adopters know before taking them in permanently. Emery said fostering allows animals who may be on medication for a short period of time to be out of the shelter for more directed attention. 

Some animals show completely different personalities outside of the “shelter environment,” and seem to flourish in homes, she said. One of the biggest benefits of sheltering is that it allows more space at the shelter and the availability to help more animals. 

Brenda Poss, of Gratiot, has been sheltering dogs for a little more than a year. She served as the Lafayette County Human Services Family Services Manager, and oversaw the foster care program.

After she retired, she saw on Facebook the humane society was looking for a foster home for Maple, a dog who had been transferred and needed rehabilitation from a gunshot wound and surgery. 

When no one else stepped up, Poss said she got her husband, Jim, to agree to foster Maple.

“I decided I want to foster 100 dogs,” Poss said. She feels that adopting a pet helps one pet at a time, but fostering would allow her to help more. She loves that she can offer hands-on volunteering from her home and that the humane society not only provides physically for the pets — but also gives a huge amount of support otherwise. 

Anytime I have a bump in the road, the humane society has been so supportive. I find it very fulfilling — and all it takes is your time because they provide everything.
Brenda Poss, Gratiot

“Anytime I have a bump in the road, the humane society has been so supportive,” she said. “I find it very fulfilling — and all it takes is your time because they provide everything.”

Poss was raised around dogs and once raised Rottweilers. She takes the time to study the animals she brings into her home to know the best ways to help. One dog came from a hoarding situation; many of the dogs she brings in have different levels of anxiety. 

She’s had six dogs over the last year — and never usually has them for more than a few weeks before they find a “forever home.”

“It’s not hard to say goodbye,” she said. “I know that the Green County Humane Society is great about finding them good homes. All the people there treat the dogs like they’re theirs.”

Brenda and Jim have two dogs of their own — a 13-year-old Corgi named Taylor, and Watson, a young rottweiler/German Shephard mix they rescued from GCHS the day after Christmas.

Looking ahead

The shelter’s Easter egg hunt open house and fundraising event was canceled due to COVID-19 and coming up is another big fundraiser this summer they’re hopeful will still happen. Donations have gone down slightly in recent months, she said, which is a concern since that’s how the humane society operates. 

GCHS has been without a director since November, when Jennifer Wright, who had been there since 2018, left to pursue other avenues. 

For the most up-to-date list of pets available for adoption, visit where an adoption application and a wish list are available. To adopt a pet, inquire about volunteering or donating, staff members are at GCHS from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. each day, or leave a message anytime by calling 608-325-9600 or email