Getting a Pet During the COVID-19 Pandemic [Updated]

The long-term consequences of pet adoption during a crisis


April 20, 2021 – As feared, pet shelters around the world have been reporting spikes in abandoned pets. As noted in the original post below, the surge in new adoptions was almost inevitably going to lead to this spike in homeless pets. Whether due to a loss of interest in keeping the new pets, or financial hardships that required abandoning the pets, pet shelters are now struggling to handle the increase in pets that need homes.

Even family pets that were adopted years before the pandemic are being forced into shelters or abandoned simply because the loss of income and lack of unemployment benefits have made it difficult or impossible for families to keep their cherished pets.

If you cannot adopt one of these pets, please find your local shelter(s) and donate what little you can in time or money to help.

Original Post – May 1, 2020

One of the feel-good stories during the COVID-19 Pandemic has been the enormous surge in pet adoptions over the last several months. Pet shelters have been reporting major jumps in the number of animals being adopted while entire states are under stay-at-home orders. This is a pleasant side effect of an otherwise nasty situation. It’s good for the pet(s) and good for the mental and emotional well-being of individuals and families locked away in their homes.

But there could also be an unfortunate long-term consequence of so many adoptions in such a brief period during a pandemic crisis. Every year there are surges of pet adoptions around the Christmas holiday, followed by similar increases in pets being abandoned to shelters in the spring and summer as that “cute puppy” becomes a rambunctious adolescent, grows bigger than expected, or becomes too hard to handle.

I fear the recent surge in adoptions may cause similar surges in pet abandonment as people go back to work (or, even worse, cannot get work and run out of unemployment resources). All too often, people adopt pets without considering the long-term commitment it requires. The short-term emotional boost that a pet provides in the here-and-now gets turned in to a long-term frustration as the bills pile up and the pet becomes a burden. What seemed like a wonderful idea when the unemployment checks were coming in and there was money in the bank, now looks far less appealing as the money runs out.

This is something many pet shelters are very concerned about. On the one hand, shelters are excited that so many pets are finding homes right now (there’s never a shortage of pets needing homes). But shelters also know that, just like the post-holiday surge in abandoned pets, there is a very real likelihood that post-crisis abandonments will jump significantly as the year progresses.

If you are considering adopting a pet make sure you understand the long-term commitment that a pet requires. Pets are one of the best additions you can make to your life, improving your mental and emotional health, while providing a wonderful companion that will greet you at the door every day when you come home from work.

But make sure you have the several thousand dollars a year you will need for vaccines, medications, veterinary visits, food and toys. And although most people don’t like to think about it, understand that your pet will probably not outlive you, so you will have to say goodbye 10-15 years from now (depending on the age of the pet at adoption).

However, if you can afford the financial and emotional commitment a pet requires, few decisions will reward you better than bringing home a pet as a new member of your family! Just make sure you are part of the solution (by adopting a pet for the long-term) and not part of the problem (adopting a pet without considering the long-term consequences).

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