Connor DenBleyker has been showing off Elmer, the newest member of the family on social media.
He credits his mom, Rachel DenBleyker, for suggesting his family, who has been spending a lot more time together lately, bring a kitten into the mix.
“I caught my mom looking for kittens, and then it became a serious conversation,” says DenBleyker, 20.
The Holland family decided that they had enough room and experience to take in the kitten, who came from a family friend.
They are not alone, people are adding more pets to their households during the COVID-19 quarantine. Pet adoptions are up across the country and in Ottawa County.
The Harbor Humane Society,
at 14345 Bagley St. in West Olive, is seeing an increase in first-time adopters since stay-at-home orders went into effect, says Jen Self-Aulgur, the nonprofit's executive director.
In the past three months, 159 dogs and 274 cats have found new homes. In addition, a majority of strays have been recovered and were reunited with their owners.
“We have actually done more cat adoptions during this time frame than we did last year,” Self-Aulgur says, adding “dog adoptions are a little bit down.”
Animal shelters have been exempt from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order, but they have shifted to appointment only visits.
Harbor Humane Society offers the option of open adoptions — which removes barriers to adoption and creates a welcoming and non-judgmental experience for would-be adopters — so the organization makes an active decision to trust people, which is an important part of its vision.
“People are generally willing to learn if they do not meet the standards immediately,” Self-Aulgur explains.
An alternative to adoption is pet fostering. Through this program, people are able to take animals home without a long-term commitment. In the past three months, HHS has gained 150 new foster families.
Related: Fostering kittens during the pandemic
This helps both the animals, who get to have loving experiences outside of the shelter, and people who want to test the waters before adopting.
Despite the ease of adoption, it is still important to have a conversation with everyone who lives in the house before choosing to adopt a pet, especially large animals like dogs that require a lot of work and attention.
The shelter has been working hard during the COVID-19 pandemic to raise awareness about the many dogs and cats who need homes, she says.
Holland resident Baruch de Carvalho is a 2017 graduate of Black River High School and a junior at the University of Iowa, studying journalism. He is currently a reporting intern with The Lakeshore.
This article is part of The Lakeshore, a new featured section of Rapid Growth focused on West Michigan's Lakeshore region. Over the coming months, Rapid Growth will be expanding to cover the complex challenges in this community by focusing on the organizations, projects, programs, and individuals working to improve conditions and solve problems for their region. As the coverage continues, look for The Lakeshore publication, coming in 2020.