Wendy Kohler

In Little Rock, where schools are closed to in-person instruction and many people are working from home, socially isolated people may benefit from adding a new pet to the family. 

Last month, the Little Rock Animal Village began offering digital adoptions to avoid in-person contact between staff and clients. Since March 21, the Animal Village has placed 82 dogs and cats in new homes through its digital adoption program, including a pitbull/American bulldog mix named Kona, who was adopted by Robinson Middle School teacher Wendy Kohler. 

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A social studies teacher, Kohler is working from home these days and said adopting Kona — who likes to lie down on the couch with Kohler as she grades papers — has been a big help while she stays socially distant from others. “She is amazing,” said Kohler, who also owns a 12-year-old miniature schnauzer, Sadie. “She is just as sweet a dog as you could ask for … She is just precious.”

Anyone interested in adopting an animal must submit an online application, which is reviewed by Little Rock Animal Services Manager Tracy Roark, who interviews the potential owners. Once the application is approved, adopters simply drive up to the Animal Village at 4500 Kramer St., and the staff brings the dog or cat and its supplies out to the car. The digital adoption program has gone so well that Roark expects it to continue beyond the days of social distancing, even after traditional in-person adoption methods resume. 

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As many families find themselves at home more, this could be a good opportunity to invest time in helping a new pet adapt to a new household. Kohler, for instance, had hoped to adopt a new dog this summer, but decided to do it sooner since she knew she would be home more now to help the dog become accustomed to its new home.

Wendy Kohler

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Pets can also provide some substitute for human companionship and help humans connect with one another, according to Steve Feldman, who runs the nonprofit Human Animal Bond Research Institute in Washington, D.C. When people interact with pets, Feldman says, good hormones are released in the brain, causing people to feel better. As a result, studies show people with pets have a better outlook on life and have some better health outcomes. “As we all adjust to social distancing and are isolated in our home, pets can help us maintain our mental and physical health,” Feldman said this week from his Virginia home, with a border collie mix at his feet.

At the Animal Village, there is no cost for adoption at the moment, since its nonprofit affiliate Friends of the Animal Village is covering all adoption fees. All dogs and cats adopted from the Animal Village come microchipped, spayed or neutered, de-wormed, vaccinated for rabies and fully vetted, according to Roark.

“I tell everybody we guarantee the animals,” Roark said. “If it doesn’t work out, the only question they get is if they want to try another one.”

Interested in adopting? Learn more here.

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