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Pandemic puppies: Are adopters really giving them up?

The short answer is no, though evictions and job losses may still loom as a pressure.

There's been at least one widely shared story about a wave of pandemic puppy returns but many shelters and America's oldest humane organization say it's not a wave. Now what?

"It's not a real thing, it's a handful of cases here and there," says Matt Bershadker, CEO of the ASPCA, the first humane society in North America and one of the largest in the world. In May 2021 it fielded a study of 5,000 pet adopters and found that 90% of dogs and 85% of cats adopted during the pandemic are still in their homes. "These numbers are equal to or less than traditional (pet) relinquishment rates" in normal years, says Bershadker.

ASPCA pet adoption

None of which is to say we're entirely out of the woods: Eviction moratoria are starting to expire, potentially sending many families into a housing market where pet-friendly options are hard to find. And many families will head back to work and school, leaving pets home alone for the first time and liable to behave in ways that make their guardians feel they have no choice but relinquishment. Awareness of support services offered by local humane societies, from behavioral training to assistance finding pet-friendly housing, could be key to stanching a potential tide of homeless pets. 

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

Matt Bershadker shared many other insights, including what the pandemic taught shelter about virtual adoptions and having a robust foster 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 covers trends impacting businesses and consumers amid the "new normal." There will always be change in our world, and we'll be here to discuss how to navigate it all.