First, it was toilet paper, then it was flour and baking supplies, now people are rushing to animal shelters to adopt pets. Animal shelters across Canada and the US are reporting a surge in inquiries about pet adoption. Pets have become so in demand that shelters are getting cleared out fast.
A few weeks ago, Riverside County Animal Services in California reported getting all their animals adopted. "We cleared the shelter!" the team announced on their official Instagram account.
Shelters across Canada are also witnessing an uptick in foster applications. Many of these animal adoption centers are dealing with double, even triple, the number of applications from people who now have more time in their hands because of the lockdown, time they feel they can use to introduce a four-legged addition to their families.
People who are now working from home and kids who are forced to stay indoors are eager to get their hands on a fur pal to keep them company. Now some animal rights organizations are voicing their concerns since this demand could also mean that people will turn to backyard breeders and puppy mills to get pets right away. Another important question people should be asking is "where will all these pets go post-COVID?" When the lockdowns are over and people go back to their normal busy and frenzied lives, how will these pets fit into their schedule and lifestyle? Will they still have the time and energy to care for their newly adopted animals?
1. Are you ready for a pet?
"When adopting, you are making a commitment to care for an animal for the rest of his life—that could mean 10 to 15 years for dogs and up to 20 years for cats," says the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).
This means that getting a pet on a whim or just because you're bored and feeling lonely at the moment without proper planning and consideration isn't a good idea. If you are toying with the thought of getting a pet while in isolation at home here are a few things you need to seriously consider first before you start getting your hands on a cute kitten or puppy.
2. Do you have space for it?
First and foremost do you even have space for it? Pets like dogs need plenty of space to roam around, they shouldn't be kept crammed inside a cage or tiny space for long periods. Some breeds are genetically wired to want to stay outdoors, others have so much energy you'd have to let them go out several times per day or they'll get creative when you force them indoors for a long time.
Some are couch potatoes by nature and don't need a lot of outdoor time but some don't adapt well to life in a tiny apartment building and are better suited for those with spacious backyards where dogs can run and roam. Make sure to research the different breeds and their temperament. Read as much as you can about the type you are eyeing to know which breeds will thrive well in your home.
3. Can you afford it?
Keeping a pet can cost a family thousands of dollars. From the initial adoption fee to the recurring expenses like dog food, supplies, and vaccinations expect to spend around $2,900 for a puppy and $1,850 – $1,950 for a kitten on the first year alone according to the Ontario SPCA and Humane Society.
Aside from the annual pet license and insurance, an emergency visit to the vet hospital or emergency procedures like surgery can put a serious dent on your family's budget. These are important financial considerations you need to think about long before you welcome an animal addition to your home.
4. Do you have time?
When everything in the city opens up after the lockdown, when malls start welcoming visitors again, when restaurants open their doors to diners, and airports start flying travelers out to other cities again will you still have time for your furry friend? When you get back to work and go on your daily commute to the office will you still be home in time to take your dog out for a walk? Will the kids have time to feed the puppy and bathe him once they go back to regular school?
Certain dog breeds are more prone to separation anxiety and need plenty of quality time with their humans. A dog with separation anxiety show signs of distress that humans often interpret as their dogs just "misbehaving" (think chewing shoes, destroying furniture, and refusing to eat). Certain dog breeds like the Bichon Frise and Shih Tzu, for instance, are lap dogs and need plenty of petting and playtime to thrive.
5. What type of pet will fit your lifestyle?
Does your work require a lot of traveling and being away? Then you’re better off with a goldfish. Imagining your life post-COVID and figuring out how this pet will fit into your lifestyle is an important consideration before you try to get one. Remember that this poor creature will have to depend on you for the rest of his life and you have to make sure that he will fit into your lifestyle and your activities seamlessly.
Are you a couch potato who loves staying in on weekends and hate the outdoors? Then you have to research dog breeds and stay clear of ones that are wired to want to trek or hunt. You wouldn't want to be stuck with an energetic and adventurous dog who'd dream of going on a hike with you when all you want to do is binge watch Netflix on weekends.
Most animal shelters conduct a thorough screening of applicants before handing over a pet and allowing them to welcome a furry addition to their families. They check the person's background and lifestyle to make sure that it's a match but it's best to do your research even before getting in touch with them. Because having a pet is just like having another child. It’s a major commitment one that needs serious consideration, proper planning, and a lot of research.