The Pandemic Puppy Problem

The Pandemic Puppy Problem
August 18, 2021 TAPS

Last year, shelters across the United States encountered one of the best problems you could hope for. As the coronavirus forced more people indoors and as more individuals began working from home, more families began adopting companion animals for their family. Animals were leaving shelters in record numbers, often faster than shelters could find new animals to fill the empty kennels.

According to the Washington Post, a database called Shelter Animals Count, tracks adoptions across 500 rescue organizations nation-wide. Halfway through last year, the database recorded 26,000 more pet adoptions in 2020 than in the year before — a rise of about 15 percent. In April near the beginning of the pandemic, it saw the national pet adoption rate jump 34 percent over the same time a year earlier, according to the group’s “Covid-19 Impact Report.”

Many people found themselves considering becoming new pet owners during the pandemic due to reasons like having more time to train a dog, less worry about pets interfering with social events and travel, companionship to help with feelings of isolation, and more time to dedicate to a new pet in general.

However, the trend was all but temporary as people returned to work this year and continue to push for a “return to normal”. Shelters across the nation are now inundated with dogs and cats, experiencing increasing and alarming rates of animal returns and surrenders, a situation made even worse by the slow trickle of applications that are coming in as demand for a new family companion has plummeted. According to Best Friends Animal Society, owners returning their pets has risen 82.6 percent since 2020.

Many of the returns we have seen here at TAPS are dogs that are around year in age. Because they were not able to be properly socialized during the pandemic, many are in need of obedience and behavioral training. Some come potty trained, but not all. Some are comfortable around children, some are not. This can be problematic for dogs especially as these unique behavioral traits can extend their stay at the shelter. Compound that with the fact that older dogs are only 25% likely to get adopted, while puppies have a 60% chance, according to the ASPCA and you end up with an animal that gets constantly overlooked at the shelter, resulting in an increase of “long-term” shelter dogs.

But there is no reason why families returning to work and school can’t keep their pets. Dogs, on average sleep 8-13 hours a day and according to the AKC, spend as much as half of their days asleep, 30 percent awake but relaxing, and just 20 percent being active. How much sleep an animal needs can depend on breed, health, and age, for example puppies may need up to 18 hours of sleep a day. Similarly, cats can sleep anywhere between 15-20 hours a day depending on breed and age factors. There’s a reason why we have the term “cat nap”!

Our pets have been there for us during one of the toughest years in recent history for many people. Last year, many of us sought out these animals to comfort us during “The Great Pause”, a time of uncertainty, sorrow, and difficulty. It’s time we honor the commitments and fulfill the promises we made to our companion animals to be there for them, when they were there for us. Reconsider surrendering and returning your animals; however, if you must, please return them back to us, we will take them with open, welcoming arms, a warm bed, loving staff, and all the treats they could want.