The COVID-19 pandemic set off an explosion of pet adoptions in the United States.
And from coast to coast, we found many rescues and shelters say they cannot keep up with the number of adoption applications they are receiving. Many are from people who started working at home and decided it was the perfect time to welcome a new family member.
"We adopted everything in the shelter," Sheryl Blancato, the CEO of Second Chance Animal Services in East Brookfield, Massachusetts says. "Now animals are being adopted pretty much as soon as they're available. We put up one dog on the website the next day we had 97 inquires."
And in Texas, even though the Austin Pets Alive! (APA) shelter is closed to the public due to the coronavirus; remote adoptions are an enormous success. "Adoption inquiries are still flooding our internet. It's great, and we're trying to keep up with it," Veterinarian Ellen Jefferson, the executive director of APA, says. "We were completely overwhelmed by it and so grateful for our community."
Back to work adoption returns?
But what will happen once these new owners go back to work? Are shelters expecting a wave of pet returns?
Blancato is not anticipating that. "I don't think that's going to happen. What's happened over and over is they told us they were planning to adopt when the kids were home from school, and they had time, there is nowhere else for them to go. It was a good opportunity," she says.
The team at Second Chance Animal Services is also asking adopters what their routine will be like post-pandemic. "We're actually screening them a little more, saying, 'OK, you're home now, and then what's your plan?' The ones we adopted to all had a plan going forward," Blancato says.
The new normal
Dr. Jefferson says it is standard operating procedure for her adoption coordinators to speak thoroughly to applicants and ask what their plans are for the animal now and in the future.
"If it is something raises a red flag if the person doesn't have a plan or seems uncertain, then we'd really slow down and think about it," Dr. Jefferson says. "What we're hearing is people always wanted a pet, and now is the perfect time because they're home."
And though government officials are throwing around different dates to "open things up" and try to get life back to normal, Dr. Jefferson predicts we might be home with our pets for a while longer.
"I'm skeptical that will be a post-pandemic period anytime soon. Viruses don't just go away, the only way that happens is with a vaccination, or a high percentage of people in your community have recovered and are immune," she says. "Less people will go back to their office. I'm hearing a lot of different groups will keep working remotely. This has forced them to try it. If you think about how productive workers can be if they don't have to spend an hour in traffic."
Time heals all wounds
Experts say one of the main reasons adopters return pets to shelters or rescues is because of behavior problems. And this extra time families have getting to know their new pet gives them a chance to work on any concerns.
"At least being home, they've been able to address issues," Blancato says. "The adopters we've been in contact with, they're all doing well. It was a great time for us; this it's wonderful."