Christine Cahill is allergic to cats, but she adopted one anyway

Christine Cahill had a cat for 19 years, but once it died she never intended to get a new one.

Then the Plantation resident heard the Broward Humane Society needed foster homes for pets, and that a new cat food could help with her allergies. She answered the call.

Soon she fell in love with her new pal, Murphy, a domestic shorthair tabby.

“Once I brought him home, I knew he wasn’t going anywhere,” Cahill said. “It’s been very positive. He gives me as much love as I give him, I enjoy him being part of my family.”

Since COVID-19 forced people into quarantine, animal adoption agencies in both Miami-Dade and Broward have seen an increase in pet adoptions and inquiries. The Miami Herald recently reported that most of the kennels at Miami-Dade Animal Services Pet Adoption & Protection Center in Doral are “mostly empty.”

For adoptions, the Miami-Dade and Broward Humane Societies have moved to a contactless process, to protect staff and the public. Prospective adopters fill out applications online and Humane Society employees then conduct phone interviews.

If applicants are approved, they are invited to the shelter, where pets are brought to their cars.

In addition to pets being great company, they can be beneficial to mental health.

“I think pets serve many purposes in a time like this,” said David Lustig, a psychologist. “Most importantly, they help people feel useful, at a moment they have an uncomfortable feeling of loss of control.”

Lustig said it feels good for new pet owners to know an animal depends on them.

“Even people with children will benefit from a pet because it gives them something new to focus on,” Lustig said.

Ed Degelsmith and Book (Courtesy of Degelsmith)

Ed Degelsmith, a retired Florida International University police lieutenant, knows this feeling well. He has his own COVID-19 adoption story.

Degelsmith already had three dogs, but when he was contacted by Davie rescue organization Glimmer of Life, he opened his heart to a Yorkie named Boo.

“It’s like having a human baby,” Degelsmith said. “The benefit is greater than the effort you put in.”

Donna Piro, Glimmer of Life director, said her phone has been blowing up since the COVID-19 crisis began. She wants to see all her dogs in good homes like Deglesmith’s.

“We are very selective, so these dogs don’t end up back in another shelter,” Piro said.

With the social distancing guidelines in place, Glimmer of Life has also moved to a contactless adoption process.

Cherie Wachter, vice president of marketing for the Humane Society of Broward County, said adopting is a great economic option compared to buying a dog from a breeder or pet store.

“Included in adoption fees is a bag of food, spaying or neutering and other health services,” Wachter said.

Executive director of the Humane Society of Miami Laurie Hoffman says a lot of people want to adopt, but she has a caution.

“This is a great time to adopt a pet, but you must think beyond this quarantine and consider if you can handle the responsibility after life gets back to normal,” Hoffman said.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled Ed Degelsmith’s name. We regret the error.

Kasey Mintz is a journalism student at Florida International University. He enjoys college football, politics, and the Office.