The demand for new pets certainly seemed to surge when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States in early 2020, forcing many Americans to spend more time in isolation.
According to Shelter Animal Counts, a nonprofit that collects data on animals spending time in shelters, adoptions from animal shelters and rescue services decreased 17% from over 1.9 million in 2019 to about 1.6 million in 2020 .
How did Americans come to welcome fewer rescued animals into their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic? The short answer is that there weren’t enough furry friends to go around.
By April 2020, when most Americans started spending much more time at home than usual, animal shelters and rescue organizations across the country had to create long waiting lists as the number of people willing to adopt or care for animals stopped short need new homes, the number of people already exceeded animals available.
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This supply-demand discrepancy occurred in part because 23% fewer pet owners abandoned their companion animals and the number of stray shelters taken in decreased by 27% in 2020 from 2019.
That doesn’t mean the total number of pet adoptions from all sources, including breeders, businesses, and informal networks, hasn’t increased, as individual reports of the strong demand for dog trainers would suggest.
One of the challenges in understanding the bigger picture of animal adoption and puppy buying is the lack of a central database that stores this information. Multiple organizations track data separately. They use different methods and often do not make their data easily accessible.
As an anthrozoologist who studies human relationships with pets, I think people who have had new pets got the right idea. Early research suggests that pets have helped people deal with the fears arising from the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns that followed.
People dealing with depression and anxiety can benefit from spending time with their pets by using their pets as proxies for their own personal experiences. For example, they can use social media to raise concerns about their pet to encourage engagement.
In a study I did with a colleague from UNLV, we found that most people found statements like “I tell more stories from my pet’s perspective on social media” and “I share more posts about my pet on social media than before. ”
While all people may receive some protection from feeling socially isolated having dogs and cats in their homes, people without children can benefit most from it.
Almost 91% of those without children we interviewed answered yes when asked: “Do you feel that your pet has helped you or is helping you cope with the protection in place?” In comparison, around 82 replied % of children with yes.
For couples and singles without children, feeding and caring for pets, maintaining routines, and – for dog owners – walking regularly can all help create consistent schedules that make it easier to stay focused, organized, and productive. A study in Australia found that you can stay more active with your dog at all times, including during lockdown.
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