Dana Jacobson, Reporter

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — As tens of millions of Americans are forced to stay home, a growing number are choosing to adopt or foster a pet. Now Minnesotans, and people around the country, are stepping up to help shelters.

As schools in Minnesota closed, 8-year-old Ridley Smuda and his sisters — 10-year-old Milla and 12-year-old Teagan — began begging for a puppy. Ridley, of Lake City, wrote his mother a letter, called “Why we need a puppy.”

With their mother also working from home, the time was right to adopt 4-month-old Gomer.

“Gomer, I have to say, has brought so much laughter and joy into our family, and he’s really such a positive force and grounding force, I think, during this super crazy time, where honestly, so little of what we experience every day feels normal,” Asia Zmuda said.

These uncertain times have seen shelters filling up, but it’s also brought an outpouring of people looking to help. One shelter pup found a forever home when his face was put on a pizza box.

“They can’t see their friends like they’re used to seeing, so I think having this loving pet in their home, showering them with love and licking wet kisses, that really just helps them get grounded I think,” Asia Zmuda said.

Meanwhile, with California on lockdown, all seven animal care and control centers in Los Angeles County are by appointment only.

“During this crisis, it may seem  that we’re closed and adoptions are not happening but they are happening,” Lt. Maria Rosales said. “We have about 300 animals, that includes dogs, cats, rabbits … we have turtles.”

Aleksandra Schiffer’s nonprofit I Stand With My Pack works closely with California shelters to find animals a home. Last week, she placed 58 with fosters.

“Two days ago we rescued puppies that are bottle feeding right now. They were surrendered to the shelter without their mother,” Schiffer said. “We kind of had an hour to figure everything out. … Everybody wants to foster right now, which is absolutely amazing.”

Schiffer said fostering brings its own challenges. To help, she’s offering free online classes with trainers.

“Please have in mind these animals when you get to take them to your home, they’re not going to be housebroken, there’s going to be a lot of different issues that you will have to deal with. And so be patient and ask for help,” Schiffer said. “Having an animal, having that friend, that warm body next to you, it makes things feel better.”

Just ask the Zmuda kids.

“Sometimes when we’re sad, we tend to just block everything out and just be mad and kind of tense about everything else,” Milla Zmuda said. “He’s just always funny and likes to snuggle.”

There are a lot of offers out there to help people adopt, from waived fees to free food. Busch Beer is even doing its part, offering a three-month supply of beer to as many as 500 people who adopt or foster from Midwest Animal Rescue in Minnesota.

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