Darlene White of the San Diego Animal Support Foundation went to sleep Friday night anxious, worried that the dogs slated to be at the group’s adoption event Saturday would not be able to find their forever homes.
White said she feared that the group’s “Dog Days of Summer” event, originally slated for June but pushed back to August because of concerns about the spread of COVID-19, was not going to draw a crowd at Grossmont Center.
She said she couldn’t believe what she saw early Saturday as hundreds of potential adopters braving the heat and lining up before the event started at 11 a.m. to have an opportunity to bring a dog home.
Organizers had to send people home halfway through the event, when it became apparent that all the adoptable dogs had been spoken for. Volunteers and board members from the nonprofit San Diego Animal Support Foundation helped disappointed people who were going home empty handed fill out applications for the rescue groups, so that they could be first in line to adopt another animal in need in the near future.
“I went to bed thinking the worst thing, that we’re going to hold this event and nobody’s going to come because nobody wants to be in public because of the COVID thing,” White said. “I was thinking we’re going to have 50 dogs and only five people are going to show up. We could have used 150 more animals out there. This event was a huge success. Every one was adopted, plus other applications were filled out so more animals will be adopted.”
The event is one of four annual large-scale adoption events held throughout the year at the La Mesa mall. The events typically boast two dozen rescue groups taking over the inside of the mall with several hundred dogs, cats, rabbits, turtles, birds and other companion animals up for adoption.
Saturday’s event was a “mini mega” event, White said, scaled down with just four groups — Amazing Strays, Woofs and Wags Dog Rescue, Passion for Pitties and Friends of Humane Services Tijuana.
Trevor Moore, director of events and marketing at Grossmont Center, said the mall wanted to be sure that people would be safe during the event so it opened up two empty air-conditioned stores on opposite sides of the mall to help ensure proper social distancing, with animals and volunteers from two rescue groups in each store.
Grossmont Center staff let into the stores just a handful of facemask-clad people at a time. Body temperatures were taken and hand sanitizer dispensed upon entrance as hopeful adopters were allowed into the stores for a chance to meet the dogs.
White said the group is hopeful that the COVID-19 concerns will be less worrisome by the time for its next planned event, “Howl-O-Ween Hounds” in the fall. Cooler weather also means the event may be held outdoors.
The pandemic has had mixed effects on animal adoptions, White said.
“While this is the perfect time for people to adopt, because they are home to train a dog, spend time with a dog, have a dog assimilated until they go back to work, it’s also the hardest time to find a venue to have an adoption event and almost impossible for people to get into shelters,” she said. “All these people want companion pets right now but there are very few venues to go into to find them.”