Pet adoptions down in pandemic, masked by fosters

Despite feel-good stories about new pandemic pets and empty shelters, pet adoptions may be declining during the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States.

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(image by Andrea Gantz)
(image by Andrea Gantz)

Despite feel-good stories about new pandemic pets and empty shelters, pet adoptions may be declining during the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. While adoptions may be falling, the rate of pet fostering is increasing during the pandemic, which may lead to the widespread perception that pet ownership is increasing.

Animal shelter data management agency PetPoint compiled statistics from 1,200 animal welfare organizations between March 13 and September 18, 2020. Overall, since the onset of the pandemic, dog and cat adoptions declined by 25% compared to the same period last year. In 2020, dog and cat adoptions reached 519,406 during that date range, down 30% for dogs and 21% for cats.

However, this decline in adoptions may have been masked by increases in foster care. Dogs entering foster care increased by 13%, while cats grew by 6%, for a total of 58,487. The pet fostering population grew 8%.

At the same time, the number of dogs and cats entering shelters also decreased. Dog numbers fell by 34% and cats by 28%, combining to make up 951,667 dogs and cats entering shelters.

Other pet adoption statistics

In September, the American Pet Products Association (APPA) conducted the third round of its “COVID-19 Pulse Study: Pet Ownership During the Pandemic,” reported Debbie Phillips-Donaldson, editor-in-chief of Petfood Industry. The first two rounds took place in May and June, respectively.

The data showed very few changes in U.S. pet ownership since late spring/early summer. Only 2% of respondents have had to give up a pet (compared to 1% in June). There was a small drop in the percentage of respondents saying their pet ownership situation has not changed 83% compared to 87% in June, due to a slight increase in the percentage of owners adopting new pets, 9% compared to 6% in, June. However, 10% of the pet owners surveyed by APPA did say they may have to give up their pets.

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