The Pandemic Puppy: What Adoption Trends in the Era of Coronavirus Tell Us About Animal Adoption

by | Nov 16, 2020

Back in March and April, the novel coronavirus was still…well, novel. People were coping with quarantines, and news programs were still, between the harder-hitting segments, doing cute human interest stories about at-home bread baking and socially distanced Mother’s Day visits. I remember one such story that made me a little nervous: the Pandemic Puppy.

Of course, it’s great to see animals in need going to loving homes, but I was nervous about people getting a puppy because they believed the animal would be easy to care for one while at home, or because their children were bored. I expected that some would end up returning their puppies to shelters or breeders, potentially traumatizing the animals who developed attachments that were then severed.

Now that the holidays are approaching, it’s a great time to think through what this trend in puppy adoptions can teach us all about adopting a companion animal. Before you decide to pick up a pup for the family and wrap a bow around its neck, think carefully about what it means to bring an animal into your home.

At the beginning of the pandemic, when people flocked to the shelters and breeders, it was inevitable that some would end up returning their animals. Even as late as August, the pandemic demand for dogs remained high, and around the holidays, people are prone to adopt animals even in a typical year. But, the ASPCA’s adoption considerations still have not changed, nor have local shelters’ guidelines, pandemic or no. The ASPCA reminds us:

  • Owning a dog or cat costs more than the initial adoption fee. Food, veterinary care, spaying or neutering and proper identification—that means a collar with tags and a more permanent form of ID such as microchipping—can add up.
  • Time is also a factor. Dogs benefit from several hours of exercise and companionship every day. Cats are healthiest and happiest indoors and love to be treated to energetic play sessions. If your work demands that you travel often, or if you’re out of the house most days and evenings, this may not be the right time to adopt.
  • It is important to consider whether your children, along with your resident pets, are able to accommodate the addition of a cat or dog to your household.

But it’s worth noting that this impulse to adopt animals, specifically puppies, at times when we are isolated from others tells us something important about our companion animals. They are a great source of comfort to us, and dogs in particular can be excellent companions who give their families a sense of purpose as well as love and affection. Whether we are isolating at home or just feeling down because of our favorite Winter events being cancelled, having a dog around is a great source of joy and cheer.

So, if you’re considering giving a dog as a gift this holiday season, thinking the lucky recipient will have plenty of time to care for the little furball while working from home, try something else. For example, why not package up a gift bag of dog toys, blankets, and food, along with the information about a dog you’re willing to help the recipient adopt–should they want to. This way, the pup doesn’t become a surprise responsibility, and you may find that your loved one ends up with an entirely different animal, and an even better companion for their lifestyle and temperament, at the shelter or breeder’s recommendation.

And even if you’re not gift shopping, just having a tough year and looking to give love and get some in return, consider reaching out to your local animal shelter on your own behalf. Humane Animal Rescue and Animal Friends are both open by appointment for adoptions, and both require pre-adoption procedures like questionnaires, meet and greets, and counseling to help match you with the right animal for your lifestyle. Remember, puppies are cute, but adult and senior dogs can be just as cute, and cats are also great companions if you don’t have as much time as a dog requires.

Whatever you choose, remember that companion animals are living beings joining your family. They will give you lots of joy, love, and fulfillment, and they deserve your care and respect in return.


Aimee Douglass is the Director of Compassionate Living. Aimee works in the healthcare industry and has a bachelors degree in Creative Writing from the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown and a masters degree in Communications with a health care focus from Southern New Hampshire University.

Abhi Nadendla is a blogger at HAP and has been volunteering at the organization since late 2022. She is a student at the University of Pittsburgh and loves spending her free time helping out at animal shelters.

Hannah Lewis is a grant writer and blogger from Pittsburgh’s North Side who has been with HAP since 2020. In addition to writing and advocating for animals, she enjoys hiking, cooking plant-based meals, bouldering at her local climbing gym, and curling up with a good book and her long-haired cat, Freyja.

Kelly Frantz has recently joined the HAP family as a blog writer. She is passionate about animal protection and is excited to educate the community about animal welfare.