The massive changes caused by America’s Covid 19 lockdowns saw an increase in pet adoptions. Business shutdowns and teleworking via zoom have disrupted routines and left millions starved for basic human contact. This strong basic need for connection has led to significant increases in demand for pets at shelters across America but Covid 19 has also meant that many businesses, including some animal shelters, have shut down. The partial return to normalcy and to the work place coupled with a mis-reporting of actual pet returns has fueled the false notion that there has been a tsunami of abandoned dogs and cats.
Since spring 2020, shelters and rescue organizations have seen record numbers of requests to adopt new pets. Although according to Best Friends Animal Society 2020 data, dog adoptions in 2020 were down 18.6 percent from adoptions in 2019. Yet in some parts of the country – like in Waldorf, Maryland and Arlington, Virginia - pet adoptions, mostly dogs, increased 30 to 40 percent last year over 2019. Animal welfare officials in the Washington D.C. area said the last time they saw such a rise in pet adoptions was after 9/11.
In May 2021, a news story broke saying record numbers of pets adopted from shelters early in the pandemic were being returned to these same shelters. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The fact is that the number of active shelters has been reduced since the pandemic began, which has skewed the numbers somewhat. Also the reporter who wrote the story clearly utilized figures from April 2021 as a basis for reporting. That month, the number of returns was significantly higher. However, both the three months previous to that and the two months following saw return figures go back to their previously low numbers, debunking the headlines of mass animal returns.
There's a story behind the real trend towards more pet adoptions and its good news for those fighting depression. Animals, particularly dogs can be great companions. With the restrictions, lockdowns and rising unemployment that occurred as fallout from the pandemic, people have experienced isolation and frustration from being separated from friends, loved ones, colleagues and the familiarity of an established daily routine. For many, this has translated into depression. Lonely and anxious, people have turned to their pet to help ease their sadness and anxiety or sought to obtain them for company.
Of the 1,000 American cat and dog owners surveyed by Rover.com, a pet services website, 93 percent said their “pandemic pet” had improved their mental or physical well-being over the last year and more than 80 percent said it made working from home more enjoyable.
This is all about bonding and the unseen effect could be potentially huge. Author Debra Atlas who wrote the book, "You Aren’t Depression’s Victim," thinks that “Covid 19 pets” are the unsung heroes of the Pandemic. Debra Atlas remarked:
“On an individual level, people report increased well being thanks to the playfulness, affection and warmth that pets provide. Multiply this by the hundreds of thousands and the suicide crisis is massively curtailed.”
(Debra Atlas is an author, newspaper columnist, freelance journalist, blogger, professional speaker and a green business practice consultant. She's also dealt head on with acute depression, personal crises, relationship problems and suicide, issues that are deeply affecting millions of American businesses and families as a direct consequence of the Covid 19 Pandemic. The result is her insightful book: You Aren’t Depression’s Victim. To learn more go to Debra Atlas's website: www.debraatlas.com)