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Pandemic pets are not being returned and here’s why

Last Spring, when the world shut down, our community members opened their hearts and homes to homeless animals. This included a surge both in foster and adoptive homes. During the pandemic, as people struggled with social isolation and being separated from friends and family, we saw so many people find joy, companionship, and even entertainment from sharing their homes with animals. 

Despite false news headlines suggesting pets adopted during the pandemic are being returned to shelters across the country in droves now that schools and offices are opening back up, we haven’t experienced an increase in returns, and data from shelters around the country indicate they haven’t either.

Keeping pets and people together begins the moment someone comes to us looking to expand their family through adoption. We start the process by having an open conversation with potential adopters that allows us to pair them with an animal who fits with their lifestyle and situation. This also helps us understand if there are additional resources or support needed for the match to be successful.

adoption at HRA

This dialogue doesn’t end when the animal goes to his or her new home. At HRA, we provide individualized services for both people and their pets with the understanding that life is unpredictable and can include changes in finances and housing or behavioral or medical needs for the pet. Through direct follow up conversations, we support families in addressing their unique post-adoption needs.

Our work is anchored in the belief that everyone deserves the love and companionship of sharing their life with a pet. So, we are here for our community to help with all their pet-related needs, whether it is low cost-veterinary care, free pet food, emergency boarding, resources on accessing pet friendly housing, behavior support, or end of life care. A key strategy to achieve this is our new Pet Help Center, a single access point for pet-related needs.  

Pet Help Center

As we begin to prepare to return to work and school, HRA can provide support in preparing pets for that transition as well. We prepared a webinar with guidance on how to prevent and treat separation distress. We also offer a host of behavior and training class options to fit your needs, whether it is a private session, group class, or virtual. Find out more here.

In the beginning of the pandemic, our first belief was that dozens of animals would be surrendered to shelters because families couldn’t care for them. But those animals never came. COVID reinforced our belief that animals are family, and our community members did everything they could to keep their family members with them, even in the face of illness and economic uncertainty.

Likewise, as offices reopen and social life begins to return to normal, it’s not surprising that the vast majority of animals who were adopted during the pandemic remain in their homes. It speaks to the shifting role of pets in our society as beloved family members. COVID has been an inflection emphasizing that evolution.


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