The COVID-19 quarantine has led to all kinds of new home activities, everything from a sourdough bread-making craze to people literally emptying the nation’s stock of exercise equipment. People also adopted pets. Lots of pets. People stuck at home decided they could use a new four-legged companion. There was a shortage of shelters across the country where people were starving for affection and physical interaction. Try to bring cats and dogs home. Some shelters have seen their adoption rates rise by nearly 40 percent.
Houston, for some reason, hasn’t. Whether it’s because shelters have had to close for a period of time, guest numbers are restricted, or for any other reason, the pet boom seems to have been missed.
Eddie Miranda, public information officer for Harris County Pets, says they haven’t seen a huge increase in inquiries or, fortunately, in giving up either from people who may have gotten an animal on a rush and later regretted it.
“Our adoption rate has been really flat compared to last year,” he says.
Miranda pointed us to recently released Harris County Pets stats for 2020. Adoptions from the county are actually down, though Miranda attributes some of that to restrictions the shelter has put in place to limit the spread of the coronavirus keeping some people away. In 2020, 5,752 cats and dogs were adopted, compared to 6,101 in the previous year.
If you’re worried more puppies and kittens will die at your county shelter, take heart. Harris County Pets has increased its live release rate from 94.2 percent to 98.8 percent, which means nearly every animal that leaves the shelter alive. These include returning pets to their owners as well as finding space for the animals in other facilities. According to the Washington Post Article linked above A large number of shelters import animals from other states, including Texas, and Harris County Pet Care moved 5,067 pets to other facilities last year.
At my house we have a saying: The world is on fire, so let’s get a cat. This is the story of how I ended up having five cats, including my newest addition that you saw above, a regal Manx named Wolfie. Adopted from Harris County Pets, where COVID protocols are already severe and involve standing outside for a long time on one of those rare cold days in Houston. It’s easy to see why the extra hoops might make a few people less likely to adopt at this moment despite the organization’s lower fees and somewhat easier navigation of the process.
Pet lovers can also take comfort in the fact that although the adoption rate has decreased, so has the euthanasia rate. Only 161 animals were culled last year, including just two healthy animals. In 2019, that number was nearly ten times as high. Puppies and kittens in general don’t sit in the shelter with the death clock ticking anymore. It’s still a good time to bring a pet home. I can tell you from personal experience that it has made the pandemic less depressing.