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What Happens to Pets in a Post-Pandemic World?

It's been a long pandemic and with all the Zoom calls, sweatpants, and never-ending take-out, there is one way many got through it all: finding a new furry friend.
We all know at least one person who adopted a pet during the pandemic. Since the pandemic officially began back in March 2020, nearly one in five American households adopted a new cat or dog. That is at least 23 million people becoming a pandemic pet parent.
The record number of adoptions means many animals were given a second chance. During the pandemic, dog and cat euthanizations in shelters decreased by 50 percent.
"Adoptions exploded over the pandemic," said David Koehler-Stanescu, manager of Crumbs & Whiskers Cat Café. "We've even seen that continue, even now."
But the euphoric thrill of adopting a pet isn't just fun, games, and silly selfies. Pet ownership is a major responsibility, which is often overlooked through all the licks and purrs. The responsibility only gets heavier with businesses reopening and people going back to the office, as this means less time for people to spend with their new pets.
"Just because you are lonely isn't the reason to get a dog because they are work and they are responsibility," said Susan Spalding, a dog adopter. "And they're like a kid – you've got to feed them and bathe them and take them to the vet."
In July, Animal Care Centers of New York had over 1,300 animals surrendered. This is nearly twice the number given back in February of this year.
"And then there's also, honestly, those people who adopted a dog without completely thinking through the process," said Mirah Horowitz, the founder of Lucky Dog Animal Rescue. "And then are going back to work and really don't want to deal with it."
Fortunately, the majority of pets adopted tend to stay with their owners, especially since those pandemic pets have become a beacon of hope to those tormented by the stress of COVID anxiety.
To make sure each adoption is a permanent one, local organizations in Washington, DC, work hard to make sure they find the right match between the adopter and the adoptee. For example, at Crumbs & Whiskers Cat Café, people get to spend time with their kitten of choice, so they can decide if they are a good fit.
If the match feels right, people can then pursue an application process which screens their home environment, schedule, and plans for taking care of the cat. The café says this thorough procedure has yielded pretty successful matches so far.
"We've had over 1,700 adoptions through us as an organization, and we've had less than 20 of being returned over the entire time we've been around," said Koehler-Stanescu.
HyoJung Kim and Shawn Klein contributed to this story.
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