No US peaks of animals returned to shelters in 2021

Adopting an animal early in the COVID-19 pandemic was very popular, as stay-at-home orders left people isolated.

More than 23 million U.S. households have acquired a pet since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to data from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).

As blockages lifted and more people returned to work or resumed social activities, some wondered what would happen to any adopted “pandemic puppies” or “pandemic pets”.

VERIFY, member of the audience, Ama M. asked for the number of dogs returned.

She asked, “During the pandemic… everyone seems to have had a puppy. But I’ve heard that right now is when most people are trying to get their dog for adoption. Is it true?”

People on social media have also commented cats and other animals adopted during the pandemic be returned.


Has there been a nationwide spike in animals handed over to shelters in 2021?



No, there has not been a nationwide peak of animals handed over to shelters in 2021.


VERIFY surveyed several national organizations that track adoptions at shelters and found that there has not been a significant increase in the number of owners returning dogs or other animals to shelters this year, even after an increase of adoptions in 2020.

According to a survey by the American Pet Products Association, 70% of households own some type of pet, up from 67% reported from 2019 to 2020. This equates to approximately 90.5 million households across the country with pets. of company.

The ASPCA surveyed 5,020 Americans aged 18 and over and found that 90% of households that acquired a dog or cat during the pandemic still have the dog and 85% still have their cat.

Stephanie Filer, executive director of Shelter Animals Count (SAC), told VERIFY that there has been no significant increase in the number of animals returned to shelters this year, compared to previous years.

SAC is an organization that works with shelters across the country to track animals entering and leaving shelters. The organization published its findings in a report that tracked data from 300 shelters, between January and June 2019, 2020 and 2021. The data tracks both dogs and cats.

“Despite a number of scare headlines, pet owners and adopters don’t seem to be returning or abandoning animals en masse. 2021 saw only a 0.56% (less than 1%) increase in inflows compared to 2020, ”the report said. “From 2019 to 2021, we see a drop of nearly 25% in contributions. ‘Owner returns’ – pets abandoned by their owners at animal shelters – are down 23% in 2021, compared to 2019. ”

“While a lower intake means fewer animals available for adoption, the data shows that a higher percentage of animals that are in shelters are adopted. In 2019, 53% of shelter pets were adopted, and by 2021, that figure has risen to nearly 58%, ”the report said. In 2020, the adoption rate was also 58%.

These “fear-mongering headlines” may have started because one organization has seen large numbers of animals return, but nationally this is not the case, Filer said.

“That’s not the case across the board, which is really to celebrate, especially since these headlines can really make individuals look like bad guys. And that’s not the relationship that animal shelters are interested in. to have with our communities. We want to be there to help keep pets in homes, we want to be there to support pet owners, “Filer said.

“And when we have these conflicting headlines, it looks like shelters are accusing pet owners of doing something. And in that case, accuse them of doing something they don’t. That’s why we really want to track the data and what our organization is really looking at – statistics based on data versus anecdotal evidence, ”she added.

Ilene Schreibman, communications manager for the North Shore Animal League America, also told VERIFY in an email that the organization has not seen a surge in returns.

“While there have been stories of what is happening elsewhere, thankfully the North Shore Animal League America has not seen an increase in animal surrenders as post-lockdown protocols have been lifted and lives is starting to return to ‘normal’, ”she said.

The North Shore Animal League is the world’s largest non-killing animal rescue and adoption organization.

“Like many animal rescue organizations, the North Shore Animal League America has seen an increase in the number of people interested in welcoming and / or adopting animals during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly the last year because more and more people were locked out and started working from home. ” Schreibman said. “Our team discovered a silver lining when they saw older dogs and cats that might have already been overlooked being adopted. Once the restrictions were lifted and rescues could begin, we continued to find loving and responsible homes for as many animals as we could place. ”

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