Drastic increase in Pet Purchases during Quarantine Creates New Problems

Erin Patterson

Have you been lonely, bored or hopeless during quarantine? If so, you are not alone. These moods increased the feeling of needing a pet causing the purchase of pets to surge over the past nine months. Matt Bershadker, American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) president and CEO, said, “This year, the ASPCA saw a nearly 70% increase in animals going to foster care compared to the same period last year.” One of the top reasons people are inclined to have a pet is because pets offer companionship and entertainment when living with you. When you can’t socially interact with other humans the feeling of wanting a pet-friend is amplified. Studies have shown that living with a pet helps lift some of these dreary feelings. 

One survey conducted through The Human Animal Bond Research Institute with Mars Petcare shared pet owner’s views on how pets make an impact on your life. The participant’s responses included, 85 percent of respondents agree that interaction with pets can help reduce loneliness, and 76 percent agree human-pet interactions can help address social isolation. Also, 72 percent of people believe human-animal interaction is good for their community, with 80 percent of pet owners saying their pet makes them feel less lonely during quarantine.

Another survey conducted was one Dulaney students and staff took. 68 percent of the students and staff stated that they had gotten a pet during quarantine–mostly, dogs. Cats, betta fish, bunnies, guinea pigs, and hamsters followed as other pets adopted. 44 percent of the responses said that quarantine was a factor into getting a pet while 28 percent said the pet purchase was pre-planned. 

With the happiness a pet brings in isolation comes new issues as well. Due to limited interaction with people and/or other animals, the pets may be scared or act harshly when they are around unfamiliar people. Another issue is how will the pet understand this is not the usual situation. Pre-quarantine, most people were outside, working or at school. The routines the pet follows now will change. Instead of waking up with the owners home, going out whenever they need to and having constant talking/noise, the pet will most likely be home alone the entire work day. This becomes an issue when the pet doesn’t realize our situation at the moment is irregular. 

For example, a dog’s needs are especially hard to accomodate in isolation compared to other pets. Masks being strictly enforced in social distanced gatherings and other advice given for COVID safety, makes the social factors dogs need decrease. Now, dogs can rarely learn new faces or interact with other pets. Annie Grossman told the NY Times, “you’re at risk of having a puppy who’s spent his critical socialization period not experiencing all the things he needs to understand about the way his world is going to look.” Grossman provides a few solutions to help with this problem: finding videos of random people talking, using louder sounds like firetrucks or dressing up in unusual outfits are a few options. This way, dogs can still learn to not be frightened by unfamiliar sounds, objects or people. 

Adopting a pet is time consuming but gives many people something to spend time with during quarantine. If you do think about purchasing a pet, think about if you have time for one in non-COVID times and how you will prepare. When we go back to some normalcy, many shelters worry that the owners will try to “return” the pets. The shelters plan to bring in new pets to help: which leads to not having as much room now that most pets are adopted.  If everyone is able to continue to care for their pets, when life goes back to normal, this will be a historical moment for the sheltered pet organizations.