COLUMBIA, MD — Aug. 26 is National Dog Day, and an increasing number of people in Columbia and other U.S. cities are turning to new four-legged friends to fend off loneliness and the abundance of time spent in isolation during the coronavirus pandemic.
In fact, some shelters are seeing a surge in demand for dog adoptions, according to Sarah Brasky, the founder and executive director of Foster Dogs Inc., a New York-based nonprofit that helps get dogs out of shelters and into foster homes.
“Shelter dogs are really winning in this entire coronavirus experience,” Brasky told The Associated Press. “It’s a strange phenomenon because there was always interest in fostering and rescue, but now it is exploding.”
In some places, such as New York, adopting a dog could prove a bit more difficult now than in the past.
Last year at this time, Brasky’s organization was accepting applications from about 140 people per month. This year, that number spiked to about 3,000, she told the AP.
Another example is at the nonprofit shelter Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles, where adoptions were double their usual rate in late June and a waiting list had formed for certain types of dogs, according to the Washington Post.
However, don’t be discouraged by the recent boon in adoptions. If you’ve been thinking about adding a new four-legged friend to your family, there are still dogs available for adoption in the United States, and plenty of animal shelters nearby to learn about pet ownership and meet your new furry love.
To help out this National Dog Day, here are five things to know about adopting a dog during the pandemic:
1) Despite reports from shelters, dog adoptions nationwide are actually down in 2020.
According to an industry report by PetPoint, a data management software used by animal shelters, 32,474 dogs were adopted in July 2020, representing a 22 percent decrease from the previous year. The numbers of dogs adopted in April, May and June of 2020 were also down from 2019.
2) Owner surrenders of dogs are also down amid the pandemic.
Call it an affirmation of our desire to keep four-legged family members nearby during the pandemic, but dog surrenders are also down by about 24 percent this year, according to the same report by PetPoint.
3) There are still plenty of dogs (and cats) taken to shelters that won’t get adopted.
According to data by the ASPCA, 3.3 million dogs are taken into shelters each year, but only 1.6 million are adopted. Also, 44 percent of Americans say they adopted their dog, indicating adoption is the preferred method when it comes to adding a new four-legged family member.
If you’re more of a cat person, the numbers are similar — 3.2 million cats are taken in each year, and only 1.6 million are adopted, according to the ASPCA.
4) Your risk of catching COVID-19 from a new dog is low.
Despite some isolated cases of dogs testing positive for the coronavirus, Dr. Douglas Kratt, president of the American Veterinary Medical Association, recently told Clear The Shelters, “it doesn’t appear that pets are playing a role in spreading the virus.”
While Klatt encouraged potential pet owners to not be fearful, he did advise caution. The AVMA suggests the following guidelines to keep you and your dog safe:
Wash your hands after caring for or playing with your pets, and before and after feeding them. Keep their bedding, food and water bowl, and collars and leashes clean. Social distance with your pet from other people and their pets.
5) Reach out to local animal shelters to meet a new pup.
Whether you’re seriously committed to adopting a dog or just thinking about it, the best step forward is to contact a local animal rescue group or shelter to inquire about availability, possible waiting lists, and what is included in the application process.
To start, here are some shelters in Howard County to contact:
Howard County Animal Care & Control, 8576 Davis Road, Columbia
Small Miracles Cat & Dog Rescue, 10236 Baltimore National Pike, Ellicott City