“Within my circle of friends, there are at least five people who got a puppy,” says Tess Karaskevicikos, a teacher from Springfield, Va., whose boxer puppy, Koda, joined her family on May 28. “It’s been great. We’ve had friends come over and play with the pup while we’re social distancing. They’re getting their dose of happiness. It’s been really amazing.”
What started in mid-March as a sudden surge in demand has, as of mid-July, become a veritable sales boom. Shelters, nonprofit rescues, private breeders, and pet stores—all reported consumer demand for more dogs and puppies to fill. Some rescues have reported dozens of requests for individual dogs. Some breeders were reporting waiting lists well into 2021. Americans kept trying to fill in the blanks with canine companions, either because they were stuck working from home with kids who needed something to do, didn’t have a job and a lot of free time, or felt lonely with There is no way to mingle.
At the Los Angeles-based Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, a nonprofit shelter, the usual adoption rate doubled in late June, with 10 or 13 adoptions a day, said President Madeline Bernstein. A waiting list was formed for certain types of dogs, and for puppies in general, because there were so few left in the shelter.
“My stock is low,” she said. “Shelters are all in the same boat, but people still want to adopt.”
Bernstein saw continued demand as a second wave occurring within the coronavirus crisis. The first wave, when the virus first emerged, consisted of people adopting and adopting in part to help disinfect shelters before they had to close them. Months later, she said, a different kind of adoptee emerged.
“There was a realization that this was going to continue for a while,” she said. People will not get on planes to travel. They will plan more pet-friendly vacations or driving vacations. So they will adopt now. This is like a second group of people in a whole other timeline.”
On the other side of the country, at Animal Care Centers in New York City, about 25 percent of the people who agreed to receive foster dogs temporarily at the start of the pandemic had permanently adopted them by late June. Usually, that figure is 10 percent, said Katie Hansen, director of marketing and communications.
She added that the New York shelter is seeing lower-than-usual return rates for adopted dogs. More adoptions might work, she said, in part because of the way the virus has forced shelters to change their operations. There have always been pre-adoption forms to fill out in most parts of the country, along with things like home checks and reference calls to verify adopters’ information—some adopters in the past have joked that it’s easier to bring a baby home than to bring one home. dog. Now there are more virtual touchpoints added to the pre-adoption process.
“There is a lot of interaction with shelters prior to adoption,” Hansen said. “You get people who found the animal on your website or on social media, watch the video, read the bio, send the email, ask for more information, and then we do the virtual meet-and-greet — there’s more interaction before the adoption happens. It’s It shows that the person is really invested.”
Breeders have also reported unusual levels of business going into the middle of summer. Hank Grosenbacher, breeder of Pembroke Welsh corgis who owns Heartland Sales in Cabool, Mo. — where commercially licensed breeders buy dogs and sell them as breeding stock — that as of late June, some breeders were investing more than usual in dogs that could be bred to become breeding-age dogs. Other breeders have reported pet stores buying full fares of unborn puppies, and putting the money up front just to try to keep inventory in the pipeline going forward.
“It means that everyone thinks this boom is going to last at least another 60 to 90 days,” Grossbacher said. “For most breeders, work is the best it’s ever been.”
Joe Watson, CEO of Petland, which operates dozens of pet stores in the US, says demand was so strong in May and June that breeders the company usually works with have seen an influx of new buyers for puppies.
“Demand for all pets was strong in May and June and continues to date,” Watson said in mid-July.
Many consumers caught in a demand crunch have found themselves navigating the shopper’s equivalent of an obstacle course to fetch a dog from any kind of source.
Natalia Nerdels, a scientist from Sea Ranch, California, has been trying for weeks to adopt a dog from a rescue group while she and her husband, who works in tech, work from home alongside their 11-year-old daughter. Nerdells said it has contacted nonprofit groups from the San Francisco Bay Area all the way up the West Coast to Oregon. All of them were overwhelmed with requests.
“The majority, when I got a response, said they didn’t have enough dogs,” Nerdels said. They said: it is too late. Don’t even leave your name. “
She ended up paying $1,375 for a puppy toy on Craigslist. The family named her Calla Lily.
“She’s now 11 weeks old, and she’s amazing,” said Nerdils. “We are very happy. I wanted to help a dog, to save, but it wasn’t possible.”
Ginger Mitchell of Grand Junction, Colorado, also came up blank in her initial search. She was able to find larger dogs at her state’s shelters, but the 68-year-old retiree didn’t want a German shepherd or pit bull.
I turned to the Internet, too, and found a 3-year-old, 15-pound terrier mix named Sammy on the PetSmart Charities website, which lists adoptable dogs from all over the country. Sami was in San Antonio with a nonprofit called CareTX Rescue.
“It was early April, and the airlines were starting to shut down everything,” Mitchell said. “You can’t ship a dog on a flight that requires a connection. It had to be non-stop. There were no non-stop flights from San Antonio, so these lovely people drove Sammy and some other dogs about five hours to Dallas-Fort Worth. He was supposed to ship him.” Here to Grand Junction on a direct flight from there, but both flights were canceled. We ended up driving four hours over the mountains to Denver. It was in the 20s, and it was snowing on the ground. It took four tries to get him to us.”
Mitchell said Sami was traumatized by the trip, but quickly settled down with her and her retired husband.
“We had a lot of time to spend with him and bond,” she said. “If it weren’t for the pandemic, we would most likely be traveling.”
Karaskevicos, who got her very own Boxer puppy from a breeder her family knows, said what worries her now is what will happen in the upcoming school year. She and her husband work as teachers, and if schools reopen, she wants Koda to be ready for a new daily routine without any people in the house.
“I thought we had to pretend to go to work every day in the garage or you’d get separation anxiety,” said Karaskevicos. “So we crate trained her, just for 45 minutes a day, we would go to the front yard or grocery shopping just so she would get used to us being away.”
Shelter directors are also wondering what will happen when Americans begin to return to school and work. There may be an increase in the number of dogs being abandoned, or the dogs may have become so attached to their families that they will keep them forever, said Bernstein, in Los Angeles. Like so many things with the coronavirus, the territory is uncharted. Just as no one predicted that the onset of a pandemic would lead to a pet dog buying spree, no one is quite sure what the end of the pandemic will mean for puppies, either.
“While we have general ideas and can make good guesses, we don’t really know how that’s going to happen,” Bernstein said. “Nobody’s ever done this before.”