Pandemic puppies: Are adopters really giving them up?

There has been at least one widespread story of a wave of pandemic puppy returns, but many animal shelters and America’s oldest humane organization say it isn’t a wave. What now?

“It’s not a real thing, there are a handful of cases here and there,” says Matt Bershadker, CEO of ASPCA, the first humane society in North America and one of the largest in the world. In May 2021, she conducted a study of 5,000 pet users and found that 90% of the dogs and 85% of the cats adopted during the pandemic are still at home. “These numbers are equal to or lower than the traditional (pet) abstinence rates,” says Bershadker.


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None of this means we are completely overturned: eviction moratoriums are expiring, which may send many families into a housing market where pet-friendly options are hard to find. And many families go back to work and school, leaving their pets at home for the first time, and tend to behave in ways that leave their guardians feeling like they have no choice but to give them up. Awareness of support services offered by local humane societies, from behavioral training to assistance with finding pet-friendly accommodation, could be key to curbing a potential homeless domestic animal flood.

“Of the 23 million households that adopted pets during the pandemic, the vast majority already had a pet,” says Bershadker. “They understand the value of a pet, but also the responsibility.” Nearly 90% of pandemic-era adopters told the ASPCA survey that they are not thinking of giving up their recently adopted companion.

Matt Bershadker shared many other insights, including what the pandemic taught about virtual adoptions and a resilient care network. Hear his full conversation with Brian Cooley in the video above.


Now What is a video interview series with industry leaders, celebrities and influencers that highlights trends affecting businesses and consumers in the midst of the “new normal”. There will always be changes in our world and we will be here to discuss how to go through all of that.

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