Adoption process going partly virtual as animal shelter closes to public visits

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JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – One local animal shelter hopes it has figured out a way to keep pet adoptions occurring despite closing to the general public because of COVID-19.

Washington County Johnson City Animal Shelter’s leadership made the difficult decision to bar the public from regular visiting for at least two weeks starting Thursday. Director Tammy Davis said she and her board agreed it was in the best interest of public health given CDC guidance and so many unknowns about COVID-19 transmission.

People will still be able to “virtually visit” through the shelter’s Facebook page, at the shelter’s website or at petfinder.com. The latter two include pictures of all available animals, while Facebook will include some special features.

“We will put special stories up, kind of showcase the animals that we have on Facebook and then hopefully it’ll catch the eye of someone,” Davis said.

Shelter director Tammy Davis with a couple adoptable cats.

Simultaneously, via phone calls or email, people can apply to adopt. “If that application is approved then we would set up an appointment, with as little human contact as possible one on one, and allow them to adopt the animal,” Davis said.

Staff will be less busy overseeing the typical flood of visitors and will have time to process applications and oversee any one on one visits.

Davis is hoping the innovative effort will work. “We always want more animals to be going out the front door than what are coming in the back door, so we know that if we close to the public and we shut down adoptions that we are basically going to cut off the animals going out the front door.”

Right now the shelter has fewer than 100 dogs and about the same number of cats. That’s a good total, but dropoffs tick up in the spring and summer. The shelter is temporarily suspending family drop offs of unwanted pets and only bringing in strays and abused animals through animal control along with emergencies.

Puppy in need of a forever home.

In some ways, it’s a perfect time for many families who’ve been considering adoption to pull the trigger.

“We know if you’re quarantined at home this will be a great time to bring a new animal into your house,” Davis said. “You’re going to be home, and it’s a good time for you to adjust and the pet to adjust.”

For more information, call the shelter at (423) 926-8769, visit wcjcanimalshelter.org, the shelter’s Facebook page or petfinder.com. You can also request an adoption application by emailing info@wcjcanimalshelter.org.

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