Animal adoptions face a ‘ruff’ time

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Giselle Perez

One of Family Dog Rescue’s potential adoptees, Remi, has been waiting for a home for over two months.

Animal adoptions spiked in the past year and a half, but as people return to the frenzy of their regular lives, new pets are no longer the main focus, and animal shelters are once again filling up with unwanted animals waiting for a home.

With more time spent at home and away from people, many looked to furry friends as a source of companionship during the pandemic. Shelter workers were overjoyed with the demand for animals in 2020, giving homes to a record number of dogs, cats, rabbits, and other animals. 

“Last year, we adopted out 2,000 dogs,” said Angela Padilla, the founder of Family Dog Rescue in San Francisco. “In all prior years, we were adopting out about 1,200 dogs, so we increased by a huge percentage.” 

Because of this demand, it was a feat for many to even find an animal to adopt. 

“It was very competitive. Every time we’d post a new dog, we’d get tons of applicants; people were practically writing college essays about themselves. They were showing up at the shelter without an appointment, begging to meet the dogs, bringing pictures of their houses, everything possible to try to get the dog,” Padilla said. “People would actually get angry if they didn’t get the particular dog they wanted.” 

Many saw firsthand how hard it was to get animals. Carlmont sophomore Evan Swanson and his family were among them. 

“We got our cat Leo from the Peninsula Humane Society,” Swanson said. “There were not many to choose from at the time because so many were being adopted, but we were happy to get Leo since we had a ton of free time and had always wanted a cat.” 

I think it’s a really great idea to have animals, especially if you’re looking for more emotional support because it’s reciprocated. You get emotional support from your animal, and in turn, you’re also taking care of an animal, especially if you’ve rescued it.”

— Tiger Zhou

People lucky enough to get their hands on a new pet experienced a huge positive impact from the addition to their lives. 

“I felt like COVID had been a rough period,” said Tiger Zhou, a student at Stanford. “I had a dog who we had to put down earlier in the year, so I really missed him while at home and kind of filled that void by adopting my dog, Nico. I think it’s a really great idea to have animals, especially if you’re looking for more emotional support because it’s reciprocated. You get emotional support from your animal, and in turn, you’re also taking care of an animal, especially if you’ve rescued it.

As people return to work and school, their time is no longer readily available for their pets, dropping along with the demand for adoptions. Animals are not receiving the same level of attention as they did when people were stuck at home. 

This shift back to busy, everyday life led shelter workers to expect a spike of shelter returns due to owners being unable to care for their animals, but, according to Padilla, this hasn’t been an issue. 

“Everyone predicted that since all these animals were getting homes, that people would go back to work and dump their dogs. We haven’t seen this happen at all. However, the market for people who want to adopt a dog has slowed tremendously. The year before COVID, we adopted out 1,200 dogs. This year, we’re trending right now at maybe 950 dogs if we’re lucky.” 

Conversely, others have noticed the opposite of Padilla, noting an influx in pet returns. Katarina Köster, the owner of the Bay Area Husky Meetup Group on Facebook, has seen an increase in people wanting to rehome their huskies and using the group as a way to offload their dogs. 

“We had to change our group rules that rehoming dogs were an option for the members. At the beginning of this year, people would lie on their application questions to enter the group, and as soon as they’d join, they would immediately come in and say, ‘I can’t take care of my dog anymore.’ I saw this one guy post who said that he had to go back to work in person and didn’t have time for his dog anymore,” Köster said. “So personally, I’ve noticed an uptick in this problem.” 

Whether or not returning to work is causing more animals to return to shelters and move homes, the future of animal adoptions looks bleak.

“It’s very slow, and everyone who wanted to adopt before has gotten a dog already,” Padilla said. “Lots of dogs are being euthanized, and people just aren’t stepping up to adopt.”