More animals are coming in -- and going out -- at the Marshmallow Animal Shelter during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I think we started at 18 dogs here and now we're at about nine," said Cassi Ohman in a phone interview on Thursday, May 14. Only three of those nine dogs are spayed/neutered and therefore available for adoption. "We adopted out most of everyone that is fixed."

Ohman, who is the manager of the Marshmallow Animal Shelter, said that the increase in adoptions happened because they found a way to stay open during the coronavirus pandemic. One volunteer offered to greet and help all the interested adopters, and the shelter's adoption set-up only needed to be slightly modified to be effective and follow social-distancing guidelines

"Before the pandemic, we were requiring people to submit an application before coming in to meet the animals," Ohman said. This is done online and the adoptions are done only by appointment while remaining distant from each other, too.

As animals have been adopted, Ohman and the shelter volunteers have been encouraging the new pet owners to make sure they don't spend all day with the new family member, even though many people are home a lot more now.

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"We still are encouraging to make sure you are leaving the pet at home, running to the grocery store ... essential things that you have to do," Ohman said.

If not left alone sometimes, pets can become attached to the schedule and attention, later causing problems when their owner returns to being gone for long periods of time for work. Ohman has seen that effect on a puppy that her family is fostering: Now it doesn't like the cage and is used to the attention, she said -- creature comforts they'll have to try and break now.

Marshmallow Animal Shelter Manager Cassi Ohman announced the organization's new name at an open house at the shelter in November 2019. The previous name of the shelter was "Marshmallow Foundation." (Nathan Bowe/Tribune)
Marshmallow Animal Shelter Manager Cassi Ohman announced the organization's new name at an open house at the shelter in November 2019. The previous name of the shelter was "Marshmallow Foundation." (Nathan Bowe/Tribune)


Animal intakes increase as well

"We have had a total of 67 cats and dogs come in since all of this started," Ohman said. "We've had three batches of puppies come in and I think two or three kittens."

She thinks the increase is because animal hospitals and clinics had to stop spay/neuter surgeries under Gov. Tim Walz's executive order, as those surgeries are elective and not essential.

"Everything that has come in has been pretty healthy," Ohman said when asked if they've had an increase of animals come from abusive situations. "Thankfully, there hasn't been too much of that."

The owners of the surrendered pets also follow a socially distant system by filling out paperwork online, contacting the shelter via phone or email, and then dropping off the animal at one of the shelter's designated drop-off spots at an isolation door. When the animal is in the kennel, the owner then calls the shelter to let them know and a volunteer will go and bring the pet in, Ohman said.

Even though she's taken in more animals in a short period of time and adopted many out, Ohman said that "it doesn't feel like anything has changed" at the shelter. While it might feel busier to her at this exact moment, she said that the shelter is pretty consistent, so she doesn't think business has actually increased much.

Ohman isn't sure what will happen at the shelter when the pandemic ends.

"It could go either way," she said about having either an increase or decrease in adoptions and intakes. But, because of the "great support system in donations" the shelter has continued to have during the pandemic, she said, they are prepared for either option.

Get involved

For more information on the shelter, adopting or surrendering an animal, making a donation or becoming a volunteer, contact The Marshmallow Animal Shelter.