During Pandemic, Dog Adoptions & Sales Spike
As Americans look for canine companions to fill vacancies, shelters, rescues, and breeders report growing demand.
1985 was the year of the Cabbage Patch Kids craze. 1996 was the year of the Tickle Me Elmo craze. To comprehend what has been going on with puppies for sale and adoptions of actual puppies and dogs during the new coronavirus epidemic, consider previous purchasing frenzys that swept the country.
Tess Karaskevicus, a schoolteacher from Springfield, Virginia, whose boxer puppy, Koda, joined her family on May 28, says, "Within my circle of friends, there are at least five others who have bought a puppy." "It's been a fantastic experience." While we socially remove ourselves, we've had friends around to play with the puppy. They're being given a puppy dose of joy. It's been nothing short of incredible."
What started as a blip in demand in mid-March had turned into a genuine sales boom by mid-July. Consumer demand outstripped the number of dogs and pups available at shelters, nonprofit rescues, private breeders, and pet stores. Hundreds of applications for individual pets were being reported by some rescues. Waiting lists were reported by some breeders as far as 2021. Americans continued to try to fill voids with canine companions, either because they were stuck at home with children who needed something to do, or because they had no work and a lot of idle time, or because they were lonely and had no means to socialize.
In late June, adoptions at the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles, a nonprofit shelter, were twice as high as usual, with 10 or 13 adoptions every day, according to president Madeline Bernstein. Because there were so few puppies remaining in the shelter, a waiting list had emerged for certain breeds and puppies in general.
She admitted, "My inventory is low." “Even though all the shelters are in the same boat, people want to adopt.”
The ongoing demand, according to Bernstein, is part of a second wave of the coronavirus outbreak. When the virus first hit, people began fostering and adopting in order to assist clear shelters before they were forced to close. A different kind of adopter has come forward months later, she said.
"It's become clear that this is going to take a long time," she explained. "No one will travel by plane." They'll organize pet-friendly staycations or road trips. As a result, they will now adopt. This is like a different set of folks from a different time period.”
On the other side of the country, at Animal Care Centers of NYC, around 25% of those who volunteered to temporarily take in foster dogs at the start of the outbreak had permanently adopted them by late June. Katy Hansen, director of marketing and communications, estimates that 10% of foster children become adoptive parents.
She also mentioned that adoption return rates at the New York shelter were lower than average. She believes that more adoptions are succeeding as a result of the virus's forced changes in shelter procedures. In most regions of the country, there have always been pre-adoption forms to fill out, as well as home inspections and reference calls to verify adopters' information – some adopters have joked in the past that bringing home a child is easier than bringing home a dog. The pre-adoption process has now been enhanced with more virtual touch points.
"Before the adoption, there is a lot more interaction with the shelters," Hansen explained. "You're getting folks who have seen the animal on your website or social media, watched the video, read the bio, written an email, asked for more information, and then we have a virtual meet-and-greet — there's a lot more contact before the adoption happens." It demonstrates the individual's genuine interest."
Breeders have also reported unusually high amounts of business that have lasted far into the summer. As of late June, Hank Grosenbacher, a Pembroke Welsh corgi breeder who owns the Heartland Sales auction in Cabool, Mo., where commercially licensed breeders frequently buy and sell dogs as breeding stock, said that some breeders were investing more heavily than usual in puppies they could raise into breeding-age dogs. Other breeders reported pet retailers purchasing entire litters of puppies that had not yet been born, paying in advance to maintain inventory in the pipeline.
"Everyone expects the boom to last at least another 60 to 90 days," Grosenbacher said. “Business is as good as it has ever been for most breeders.”
Demand was so robust in May and June, according to Joe Watson, CEO of Petland, which owns dozens of pet stores across the United States, that the breeders with whom the firm generally works witnessed a surge of new puppy purchasers.
In mid-July, Watson remarked, "Demand for all pets was strong in May and June, and it has continued thus far."
Many shoppers facing a supply shortage have found themselves navigating the shopper's equivalent of an obstacle course in order to carry a puppy home from any source.
Natalia Neerdaels, a scientist from Sea Ranch, Calif., tried for weeks to adopt a puppy from a rescue group while working from home with her husband, who works in the IT industry, and their 11-year-old daughter. Neerdaels stated that she contacted charitable organizations from the San Francisco Bay Area all the way to Oregon. There were so many applications that they were all overwhelmed.
"When I got a response, the majority indicated they didn't have enough dogs," Neerdaels explained. 'You're too late,' they said. 'Don't even put your name on the list.'
On Craigslist, she bought a toy poodle puppy for $1,375. Cala Lili was given to her by her parents.
"She's 11 weeks old and doing great," Neerdaels added. "We're quite pleased with ourselves. I had hoped to assist a dog in need, but it was not possible."
In her initial search, Ginger Mitchell of Grand Junction, Colorado, came up empty. The 68-year-old retiree might have found larger dogs in her state's shelters, but she didn't want a German shepherd or a pit bull.
She, too, turned to the Internet, where she discovered Sammy, a 3-year-old, 15-pound terrier mix, on the PetSmart Charities website, which lists available dogs from all over the country. Sammy was volunteering with CareTX Rescue in San Antonio.
"It was early April," Mitchell added, "and the airlines were starting to shut down everything." "A dog couldn't be shipped on a connecting aircraft." It has to be on the go all of the time. Because there were no direct flights from San Antonio, these wonderful people drove Sammy and a group of other canines to Dallas-Fort Worth for nearly five hours. They were intended to transport him here via direct flight from Grand Junction, but both planes were canceled. We had to drive through the mountains for four hours to get to Denver. There was snow on the ground and the temperature was in the 20s. Getting him to us took four tries."
Mitchell claimed Sammy was scared by the voyage but quickly adjusted to her and her retired husband.
"We were able to spend a lot of time with him and bond," she explained. "We'd be traveling if it weren't for the pandemic."
Karaskevicus, who obtained her boxer puppy from a family friend, said her sole concern now is the next school year. She and her husband are both teachers, and she wants Koda to be prepared for a new daily schedule without someone at home when schools resume.
"I figured we should pretend to go to work every day in the garage," Karaskevicus explained. "So we crate trained her, and we'll go out in the front yard or go grocery shopping for like 45 minutes a day just to get her acclimated to us being gone."
As Americans return to school and work, shelter administrators are also concerned about what will happen. Bernstein, who lives in Los Angeles, believes that there may be an increase in dogs being abandoned, or that the dogs and their people have formed such a strong attachment that they will keep them forever. The terrain is uncharted, as it is with many aspects of the coronavirus. Nobody foresaw that the onset of a pandemic would result in a pet dog buying frenzy, and no one knows what the conclusion of a pandemic will entail for the pups.
“We have broad notions and can make educated estimates, but we have no idea how this will come out,” Bernstein added. “This is the first time this has ever been done.”