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COVID-19 Still Has Positive Effect - on Pet Adoptions

Perhaps the one beneficial result of the COVID 19 pandemic is that it has caused a huge increase in the adoption of pets at animal shelters throughout the state and nation.
(File photo) Neon Tommy [CC BY-SA 2.0] via Flickr
Perhaps the one beneficial result of the COVID 19 pandemic is that it has caused a huge increase in the adoption of pets at animal shelters throughout the state and nation.

Since about March, the barks and meows typically heard in animal shelters across the nation have been a lot quieter.  Why?  It's probably the one beneficial effect of the otherwise awful Coronavirus pandemic.  Beginning in the spring, animal shelters nationwide have experienced a huge increase in the number of dogs and cats being adopted.  

Columbia veterinarian Nori Warren believes the two biggest factors in this phenomenon are loneliness and time.  "I think a lot of people were starting to get lonely and wanted something to do, to pay attention to and something to be distracted by," she said.  "And I really think the elderly population, suddenly they're stuck at home.  They can't go to church.  They can't go to their meetings.  I think people just kinda looked around at their environment and said 'you know, I'm home, I've got the time to take care of a pet.'

"And some people say 'oh, I didn't realize my dog was so lonely.  Let me get him or her a companion.'  Same thing with cats."

Columbia Animal Shelter Director Marly Drum said the large number of adoptions she's seen was made possible by a different occurrence.  "What made it so noticable as well was the intake (of animals) was down so much, and that's what caused the emptiness in so many shelters across the country.  We had a couple of days, short periods of time here and there where the adoption area would be completely empty." 

The shelter typically would have anywhere from 300 to 450 animals.  Drum said some days it housed fewer than 200.  "It was sort of a 'wow' factor.  So it creates a lot of empty kennels and cages, and that was so nice to see."

Warren said while animal shelters noticed the trend when their cages were empty, veterinarians learned first hand about the increase in adoptions another way.  "Suddenly we were starting to have a lot of new clients with new pets.  It's not unusual for us to have one or two new clients on a weekly average.  But suddenly we're having like seven or eight new appointments on a daily basis, and we're like, "what's going on here?"

According to the vet, the wave of extra business actually became something of a problem, but obviously, a good problem to have.   On a normal day, having about 20 pets dropped off was to be expected.  But, she said, "we were suddenly having 35 and 40, and a significant number of those were new client-new patient drop offs.  So it got really difficult trying to figure out how to see our patients as well as being able to see new patients."

Has the trend held up into the fall?  Drum said over the summer things seemed to settle down and get back to normal levels of animals for some facilities like hers.  But the increase is still very present with Warren, who has not seen a reduction in the number of new patients.

"I'm not seeing much of a slowdown, uh-uh.  I really am not," she said.  "And it may just be that these people have adopted these animals and maybe their vaccines were not due for a couple of months.   But we're still seeing a lot of new ones." 

If there's a spike in the number of COVID cases this fall as some have forecast, Drum said she couldn't predict if that would cause another large increase in pet adoptions.  "Who knows?  If that happens, it just mean we'll see more empty cages, which will be great.  I hope we don't have another round of COVID.  But if folks do have to stay home and they want a companion, by all means, we'll be here." 

Drum said prospective pet owners should consider their lifestyles - whether active, sedentary, high-energy, low energy, do they travel a lot, and more - when choosing a pet, so both the animals' and owners' lives will be a good fit.  She reminded people that owning  a pet is a long-term commitment, and it's something they should take very seriously.