One of the most heartwarming developments that came out of the Covid crisis was stories of animal shelters with empty kennels and happy adopters. This trend even landed the rescue dog as the Time Magazine Pet of the Year. However, this information doesn’t paint the whole picture for most shelters and rescues across the nation, including the Dumb Friends League.
Pandemic puppy: noun | (pan-dem-ik pup-pee).A puppy or dog who was adopted during the Covid 19 global pandemic, often as a result of the owner being home due to chosen or mandated quarantine.
When the Covid crisis hit, many shelters and rescues were forced to suspend operations. They stopped taking in pets and closed adoptions to the public, which actually resulted in decreased adoptions and intake. This fact is reflected in data from PetPoint, a website that collects data from more than 1,100 animal welfare organizations in the United States. Their data shows that in 2020, there was a 19 percent decrease in the number of dogs adopted from shelters and an 11 percent decrease in cat adoptions.
Now, to further confuse the issue, a scan of shelter-related news leads readers to believe that cats and dogs adopted during the pandemic (aka “pandemic puppies”) are being returned in droves to local animal shelters. While shelters like the League are experiencing high volumes of pets, data shows this is related more to the time of year and the return to normalcy after the global pandemic. A nationwide survey conducted by the ASPCA found that one-in-five households acquired a pet since the start of the Covid crisis, and the vast majority of these households still have that pet in the home—90 percent for dogs and 85 percent for cats.
The confusion may lie in the fact that shelters such as the Dumb Friends League are seeing a significant increase in the number of animals in our care as compared to the same timeframe pre-pandemic. For example, the League had 295 more cats and dogs in our shelters on May 31, 2021 than we did on May 31, 2019. However, this seems to be correlated with pandemic-related life changes and economic turmoil, than it is to pets that were adopted in the pandemic being returned or surrendered.
This is also reflected in PetPoint data cited in an article in the New York Times. PetPoint found that while shelters have experienced an increase in the number of pets, this is actually due to returning to normal operations post-pandemic. In April, for example, in all shelters across the country, 15,906 dogs were surrendered by their owners—an increase of nearly 80 percent over April 2020. However, many shelters restricted operations in April 2020, so fewer pets could be surrendered, and nationwide, the numbers for April 2021 were still well below the 20,289 dogs surrendered in April 2019, before the Coronavirus upended life and commerce.
There is no denying that the League is currently bursting with adoptable pets. However, we are also glad to report that most pets that found their new home in times of the pandemic remain in those homes today.
To help create families, the League is hosting an Adoptathon event at the Leslie A. Malone Center in Denver and Buddy Center in Castle Rock June 26 and 27. With plenty of great pets waiting to find their homes, we are offering a “name your price” adoption special. The standard adoption screening process still applies during adoption promotions. Visit ddfl.org today to see pets currently available for adoption.