Speaker 1: There's no shortage of stories that are telling us there's a flood of pets from pandemic adoptions being returned to shelters, and yet the experts at large and not so large human societies, aren't quite seeing it yet. Doesn't mean the risk doesn't exist. Now what the Matt beader is gonna have some good insights on this. He's the CEO of the ASPCA, the first humane society in north America, one of the largest in the world. So [00:00:30] Matt bottom line here, what is going on with pandemic puppy supposed relinquishment and returns? Is it a real thing or is it just a few cases?
Speaker 2: It is not a real thing. And we are so, so happy to report that it's a handful of cases here and there. We feel that a study, uh, that looked at, uh, March, 2020 to May, 2021. And what that study showed us was over 5,000 folks is that 90% of the dogs acquired during that [00:01:00] time period in their homes. And 85% of cats acquired during that time period remain in their homes. And it, and it's just fantastic news.
Speaker 1: How do you feel that that number compares to a traditional year in terms of number of adoptions that get returned?
Speaker 2: So actually the, the numbers are equal to, or lesser than tradit, uh, relinquishment rates, which is also something that we're very, very excited about. Now you said something in your open that's important. Th this is something that [00:01:30] we want to keep our eye on. There are a few things coming up, eviction, moratoriums, people returning to work, people returning to school. So we wanna make sure that these animals stay in their homes. But the other thing we saw Brian, or the other thing we asked was, are you thinking about relinquishing their pets and 90% of the folks, almost 90% of the folks should know not at all. Uh, so again, another very strong data point that suggests that these animals are gonna stay where they are. What
Speaker 1: Are some of the pressures that we, uh, in the animal, uh, sheltering and welfare world [00:02:00] you're watching. You mentioned one, which is the lifting of a eviction Moor. At some point, there's a whole patchwork of those at national state and county levels. And then there's the going back to work, uh, thing which can leave animals alone, but not necessarily leave them homeless, just leave them in a place where they may act out behaviorally. Those are
Speaker 2: The two big ones that we're most concerned about that we wanna watch. However, there's an important piece of data that suggests we should be okay. Again, we are gonna, we do want this to be a longitudinal study, [00:02:30] so we want to field it again. Uh, and that is that of the 23 million households that acquired pets during the pandemic. The vast majority of them already had a pet. So these are folks who understand what it is to own a pet, understand value, the love, the companionship, the joy, but also the responsibility. So that tells us that, that we think these adoptions and these acquisitions, uh, will last and Brian, there are things that people can do to prepare their pet for that [00:03:00] moment. Uh, cuz we've been home for what a year and a half now, a year. And you're with your dog. My two dogs are with me every day. Uh, so you can go for walks, you can run errands. So to start to, uh, get them used to the fact that they're not gonna be, uh, with you all the time.
Speaker 1: Do you think that there is enough, uh, enough resources and behavioral assistance out there at local and regional shelters? Um, or do you think that the, that level of the animal sheltering biz needs to get its [00:03:30] work out that muscle and anticipation of what may be coming,
Speaker 2: Prioritizing behavioral healthcare across the shelter space and across pet ownership is a very, very big prior. And in fact, we have several programs aimed at that. Um, and there is a, there is a dearth I think, of trained, uh, professional behaviorists who can help people with their animals. I don't think the behavioral recommendations, the behavioral advice is that sophisticated in that we need that level of extra [00:04:00] Ortiz. I think people can do some smart, pretty simple things. One already mentioned start to get your animal used to the fact that you're not gonna be home all the time by leaving and leaving him or her home. That's one thing we can do. The other thing you can do is there are different kind of, kind of mental exercises that your dog or your cat, uh, can do while you're gone. Here's a great example, buy a con stuff it with food, put some peanut butter over it and freeze it right. Then [00:04:30] when you leave, you give that to your dog, that this, this is specific for a dog and this gives him or her something to do. It'll take them about a half hour, 45 minutes to get through that frozen peanut butter. And during that time they can rely and have something to do while you're gone, keep them stimulated psychologically, keep them busy, physically as they're chewing. So there are different exercises, different games, uh, that you can have your dog do while you're not even there.
Speaker 1: If we look at these, um, at these techniques to deal with separation anxiety, which I know is a big one for dog relinquishment, [00:05:00] it's, it's a huge thing that drives a lot of behavior and training complaints. People talk to their local shelter, talk to their vets, say, yes, my dog's chewing this, ripping this, digging at the floor until they finally try to get out the front door, all these things. Yes. Um, how much of that do you think people should be addressing now with formal training programs that they look for at their local humane or she elder? Or do you think that they can DIY? I mean, it sounds like you think they can DIY this with pretty common sense techniques. [00:05:30] I
Speaker 2: Really do. I don't, we haven't seen any data. We haven't seen any ado. We haven't heard anything anecdotally that suggests these animals that were acquired during the pandemic are gonna need more behavioral support than any other animal acquired at any other time. So I do think they folks can figure it out, uh, as they go separation anxiety is a very real, uh, problem. And it is a huge, um, source of relinquishment and a huge source of stress for owners. Uh, in fact, one of my guys [00:06:00] had pretty bad separation anxiety. We solved it by getting another dog. I'm not sure that that is how everyone wants to solve it, but that's certainly one thing you can do. And he immediately settled down.
Speaker 1: Now look at the bigger picture of what shelters and animal welfare orgs like yours learn. Everyone seems to every, every industry sector seems to have learned something during the pandemic that they didn't know they were going to learn or that they were going to work on, but it really radically accelerated. Yeah. During the pandemic. Do you have any stories like that from from your world foster
Speaker 2: Foster foster, [00:06:30] right. Obviously shelters were engaged with the foster networks and using a foster program prior to the, but what the pandemic did is it really supercharged the reliance on fosters. So what we know is that when an animal is living with a foster, he or she is outside of an institutional setting, even the best shelters in the world are still an institutional setting. So this animal is at its home, right? This animal's gonna be exposed to other folks, uh, who may not wanna go to with shelter. You know, what you'll hear is I can't go, it's too [00:07:00] sad. I see these animals and I know I can't save them all, all that's eliminated, just like any big box retailer, you gotta get people in the store now with a shelter, with a foster, excuse me, we have these animals being exposed in another way.
Speaker 2: So you relying on fosters and engaging that network. Cuz now you have engaged your community in your fight in a very, very emotional way. And you can tap them for legislative initiatives. You can tap them for other volunteer activities and using technology of course, to support them zoom behavior [00:07:30] calls, uh, zoom, uh, telemedicine, for example, or modest telemedicine calls, if your foster caregivers need that kind of support. So for us, what the pan did, uh, was it really supercharged our foster program. And I'm talking about big blockhead dogs and I'm talking about, you know, four week old kittens, the whole gamut of animals, benefits getting out of the shelter and into the home and the shelter benefits by engaging their community in this very, very powerful in this very, very powerful way. And what
Speaker 1: You're talking about there were the foster effort is so interesting cuz [00:08:00] it ties into what a lot of the humane and sheltering, uh, orgs have been doing, which is to say, let's push our business out to the edge, into the community, keeping animals with people. Yes. As opposed to being the very best place you can come and bring them right. It
Speaker 2: Was like a light bulb. One off when we said, wait a second, call it 10 years ago. Wait a second. Why are we bringing all these animal? Those in let's figure out what is the root cause of this situation? That's driving re relinquishment, that's driving intake. And let's see if we can keep these animals in the homes where they are. And what we [00:08:30] found is in the vast majority of situations, folks have these animals, they love them. They wanted to keep them, they were bonded to them. But in many cases they were facing extraordinary financial hardship and they felt like they had no other options. So the, as PCA and many other Adam welfare organizations are working on addressing the root causes of relinquishment and surrender and what types of services can we provide to folks to keep their animals in their homes? Uh, spay neuter is a big one.
Speaker 2: Modest medical support is [00:09:00] another big one. So the PCA, as I said, and many other animal welfare agencies are starting to do that. We call it access to care. We just recently opened, um, in Brooklyn, New York and east New York and 11,000 square foot facility that provides care for folks in that neighborhood to help them keep their pets healthy. And at home we have another one in Liberty city and, and plants to grow this program. So we can really start putting veterinary resources in the areas where, uh, the need is most urgent and the resources [00:09:30] are most limited.
Speaker 1: Let's flip the coin from the one of getting pets to stay with their people and keeping that all copacetic to the other pain point that people felt during this pandemic, which is I can't find a pet to adopt. That was the other big one. Uh, a lot of orgs turned to as a result or as a result of COVID, uh, the idea of these, uh, virtual appointments first to get you kind of pre-screen for the right kind of animal. And then often a foster visit. Once you got referred out, it's like, you might like this dog. Let [00:10:00] me send you over to the foster and get you guys together. So all this virtual adoption, uh, lobby,
Speaker 2: I don't think there's a big need to return to the central campus at all. I think that remote system will stay in place. And really when we think about it, Brian, the only animals that are in the shelter should be the, that truly need to be there. Every other animal should, should be outside of the shelter in the community, whether it's a permanent home or a temporary foster home, again, because the, the behavioral advantages, uh, of, for the dog or [00:10:30] for the cat to be in a, in a home rather than institutional setting, if you're a potential adopter and you get to see an animal in an actual homelike environment, you have a much better idea of how he or she's gonna behave when they get into your home, as opposed to in a shelter. We know that for example, resource guarding and dogs is higher when the dog's in the shelter.
Speaker 2: And oftentimes as soon as the dog gets in the home, it goes away. So the only animals in a perfect world that will be in the shelter are those that are victims of cruelty and are, and are being cared for and recovered [00:11:00] as the case, uh, winds its way through the system, those that, uh, need temporary help in an emergency basis. So for example, during the pandemic, the PCA, we converted a good part of our shelter in New York to emergency housing for those individuals who were sick with COVID, we found that people weren't going to get care because they didn't know what was gonna happen to their pet. Uh, and there's always gonna be a few animals that come through the system, but really we're talking about victims of cruelty and temporary emergency board, perhaps animals, uh, whose owners are victims of domestic violence [00:11:30] or other emergency scenarios. So I love the idea of this remote based system. And again, it engages the community in our fight, which can be such an advantage for us on O on other issues that we want to advance, particularly on the policy front.
Speaker 1: I guess that kind of a, of a thrust should a lot of orgs adopt that sort of virtual network of fosters as the, as the lobby, if you will, uh, kind of leads to a lot more failed fosters for people actually to say, I love this animal, I'm gonna keep it.
Speaker 2: That happens. Um, [00:12:00] I had an experience where I went to adopt a dog that was being fostered. And as soon as I walked in, I said, there's no way this, the, the, this person's giving up this dog. Like, I mean, they're in love. Um, and, and they called me a few weeks later with, with another guy, uh, which was great, but it was very, very funny when I walked in, I said, you're not giving up this dog. Oh,
Speaker 1: Interesting. You knew as quickly as they did.
Speaker 2: I saw them together and I saw the way she was talking about him. And I said, you're
Speaker 1: In love with this dog dog. I didn't need me here. What am I doing here? Right. And
Speaker 2: It's totally cool. [00:12:30] But, um, but, but this, this dog's staying with you and let me know when you have one that you're really getting into place. Yeah. So yeah, you, you, you will see that, but again, if you go back to that data of the 23 million households who acquired pets during, during the pandemic, the vast majority of them already had an animal. So maybe they'll foster and they'll foster, they'll foster and adopt, and then they'll still foster for their community. You know, what you get with of animal lovers is a, is a fervor, uh, is a deep, deep commitment to changing the world for animals. [00:13:00] Uh, and that's actually our greatest strength
Speaker 1: What's on your plate, uh, to, to get done and to keep a handle on and the remainder of 2021. And this year that is, you know, certainly a lot of return to normal is happening, but it's lot of question marks still linger out there. It
Speaker 2: PCA has a few long term priorities. We test on one of them, which is access to care and access to care. Isn't only providing care to animals in need, but if developing more efficient, less expensive protocols and then disseminating those [00:13:30] protocols throughout the country. So that animals, that the PCA can't physically put its hands on, somebody else can put their hands on, uh, and care for them. You know, for example, a pyometra, which is an infected uterus on average costs, about $3,500 to treat, we've done a pretty robust study in our own hospital and some of our community community medicine vet clinics. And we've been able to treat them with 96 or 98% success for about $1,500. So what we wanna [00:14:00] do is we wanna publish, publish this data in peer review journals. We want to get this data and these protocols out there, and we wanna see other veterinarians start to adopt these, these protocols and these techniques.
Speaker 2: So access to care is a big one. Behavior is another big one. Uh, as an organization, we are deeply committed, uh, to resolving behaviors that can lead to euthanasia for dogs and cats. We have a facility in North Carolina, the behavioral rehabilitation center that is focused on resolving under socialization [00:14:30] in fear. Uh, and we've been able to maintain an 86% success rate since we opened that facility in 2003 13, and in 2023, and we're planning for this. Now we're gonna open a facility in upstate New York. That's gonna work on hyper arousal. And when you look at under socialization and fear and you look at hyper arousal, the organization will really be addressing all the states and traumas that lead to euthanasia, uh, for dogs. So those are some of the big things that we're working on.
Speaker 1: Matt perker is CEO of the, as PCA, the.