Story at a glance

  • Shelters are reporting high rates of returning and surrendering dogs adopted during the pandemic, as well as other pets.
  • Some animal rescues have noted a large portion of the owners surrendering their dogs were first-time pet owners.
  • The returns coincide with the easing and lifting of coronavirus restrictions in many states.

Rescuing and buying pandemic puppies was all but a trend when the coronavirus first swept the nation last year, and now shelters are seeing that trend fizzle out as the pandemic wanes, with people heading back to their local shelters to return their now-grown dogs.

When the pandemic started, Moms and Mutts Colorado Rescue "couldn't rescue enough dogs to meet the demand," Aron Jones, executive director of the shetler, told USA TODAY. 

This sentiment is echoed by a multitude of shelters.

Mirah Horowitz, executive director of Lucky Dog Rescue in Arlington, Va., told the Washington Post in January 2021, “There just haven’t been a lot of animals to take in. It’s been tough getting animals.”


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Data collected by PetPoint supports this, finding that pet adoptions rose 12 percent in 2020. 

Now at Moms and Mutts Colorado Rescue, Jones stated the rate of returned animals has doubled its typical amount, and a majority of the surrendered dogs are about 1-year-old. 

"The trends that we've seen is the people who adopted, either they didn't have any other dogs or pets or they were first-time dog owners, and I think that was the biggest thing," Jones said.

The surrendering of these dogs coincides with cities and states easing and lifting coronavirus restrictions as more and more of the population becomes vaccinated, allowing these owners to return to work, go out to socialize more often and even take trips.

But returning and even rehoming a dog has traumatic effects on the animal.

"They get used to a routine pretty quickly. They get used to the family, they get used to their space, they get used to their routine and schedule they have," Ashley Roberts, program manager for adoptions, fosters, and transports at Lucky Dog Animal Rescue, said. "It's really scary for them."

It can also lead to elongated stays in shelters for these returned dogs, or even eventual euthanasia, as the dogs being returned tend to have aged, and older dogs have a 25 percent chance of being adopted, whereas puppies have a 60 percent chance, according to the ASPCA.

Owners returning their pets has risen 82.6 percent since 2020, though it has dropped 12.5 percent compared to 2019, which may reflect the coinciding adoption surge, according to Best Friends Animal Society.

“There’s no reason people going back to work can't successfully keep their pets, with some adjustments and planning," the Best Friends Animal Society director of public relations, Eric Rayvid, said. "Our pets have been there for us and provided companionship and comfort through an extremely difficult year, and we should honor the commitment we made to them through adoption."


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Published on May 12, 2021