Animal welfare advocates in the United States were ecstatic when the pandemic prompted thousands of bored and isolated Americans to adopt a new furry companion last year. However, they were also concerned that those new bonds would be put aside when life began returning to normal. Thankfully, the reality so far is much more positive. Data provided by shelters and interviews with animal welfare experts show that there has been a shift in attitude towards animal companionship for some as people have created deep bonds with their new companions. For most people, the thought of surrendering their furry friend is unthinkable.
Fears of pet abandonment have been fanned by news reports that shelters were taking in more dogs than last year as coronavirus restrictions were lifted. However, animal welfare groups are saying that animals adopted during the pandemic remain in their forever homes with their new human companions, and shelters have not reported dramatic increases in adopted pets being surrendered to them. This is in part due to the work shelters do in ensuring adopters are prepared to care for pets both during and after the pandemic. Shelter staff has serious conversations with all potential adopters to protect animals from these situations. They make sure good, lasting matches are being made and that animals adopted match their adopters’ lifestyles.
According to animal welfare groups, despite reports of waiting lists and long lines at shelters, adoptions were actually down in 2020. In 2020, About 280,270 dogs were adopted in the United States, which is roughly a 19% decrease in 2019, according to PetPoint, a website that aggregates data from more than 1,100 animal welfare organizations in the United States. Most people found their dogs to be a critical part of their lives in the last year, especially considering how difficult the pandemic has been. In a survey of 1,000 Americans who reported having an animal in their household, 93% said their mental or physical well-being has improved over the last year due to their pandemic animal companion, and more than 80% of the responders said having an animal companion made working from home more enjoyable.
Despite all of this great news, animal welfare groups remain weary as time passes. Many animal welfare groups have concerns about when dogs are adopted as puppies and the adopter's change in attitude as their pups age. Without proper training, as puppies approach adolescence, behavioral problems can develop, which can lead to adopters having second thoughts.
Another concern for animal welfare groups is separation anxiety. As people return to work, dogs accustomed to having their humans at home often struggle to adapt, resulting in some destructive behaviors. Experts recommend preparing dogs for the transition back to the office or other activities. You can do this by encouraging your pups to spend time independently, in their own beds, their crates, or in a fenced-in yard. Experts also suggest people practice leaving your dogs alone in a room for progressively longer periods, and exercising your pups for at least 15 minutes before leaving for work. It is also critical not to be anxious in front of your pups. Dogs can sense shifts in your mood and take their cues on how to feel in unprecedented situations from you. The more relaxed you are, the more likely it is the pup in question will follow your lead and adapt to the change quickly.