Pets in the Pandemic

Madison Grady, Student-Reporter

     Have you adopted a furry friend recently? If so then you already know about how the coronavirus is compelling millions of people to adopt dogs and cats to keep them company during quarantine. Since March of 2020, all over the world, especially in America, pet adoptions have increased dramatically, and sometimes even entire pet shelters have been emptied. How have people dogs and cats been affected by the increase in pet adoptions?

     In pre-Covid times, there were always pets in need of good homes.  But once the coronavirus pandemic started surging, many people got sick or lost their jobs. They could no longer care for their pets, and even more were sent to shelters. As of August, a local rescue foundation in Arlington, Lost Dog & Cat Rescue, had brought in 2,081 dogs and cats.

     But there is good news: many people decided that the pandemic was the perfect time to adopt a pet.  Lost Dog & Cat has already placed nearly a thousand pets in foster and forever homes in 2020 so far, which is significantly more than they have had in previous years. And the same thing is happening in shelters all around the country.  Thus, the Great Pet Adoption Surge of 2020 has begun. 

     Even right here in our Williamsburg Middle School community, many have adopted pets during quarantine, teachers and students alike.

     Susan Hodkin, a 7th grade math teacher at WMS, has recently adopted two 4-5 month old tabby kittens named Layla and Carys. “They’re funny, cute, and affectionate, and they get up really early.” says Hodkin. Hodkin found Layla and Carys online from the Fancy Cats Rescue Team. She likes to play and sleep with them, and Layla follows her everywhere. “They have definitely given us more energy, and a better routine, because we have to get up at six in the morning now. They’ve helped us through a really weird time.”

     Maysie Bedsole, an 8th grader who goes to WMS, adopted a Shichon named Jasper during quarantine. “He’s small and energetic, and gives us a reason to be happier.” Her family got Jasper from a sustainable breeder in Ohio. In her spare time, Bedsole likes to cuddle on the couch with him. Bedsole is glad they got her family adopted Jasper, “We’re still learning cause we’ve never had dogs before, but I think it was a really cool decision and he makes me happy.”

    Liz Gephardt, a Latin teacher at WMS, adopted a boxer named Roxie during the pandemic. Roxie used to live in Texas, but she got sent to Maryland because there were too many dogs. Gephardt then found Roxie through Key to Lion’s Heart Rescue, and Roxie now lives here in Arlington with her. “Roxie helps me and my family feel calmer and get more exercise. Sometimes I’ll take a break and walk her.” Roxie also enjoys playing fetch, “I’ll start out playing fetch with her, until she gets all of the balls and won’t give them back!”

     “When the shutdown occurred, people felt they had more companionship and more time.” said Stephen Di Giulian, the head of the Mid-Atlantic branch of the Westie Rescue Foundation. “People are wanting a friend or a four-legged individual, to keep them company. There’s lots of people and lots of desire to get animals. They now have the time because they’re at home to care for a pet. But do they have the capability? Do they have the finances? That’s a different story.”

     That’s the question people are asking, we now have the time to adopt pets, and that’s why so many people are adopting them. But is someone who is going to adopt a dog financially grounded enough, especially during the pandemic, to take care of them? Is this surge in pet adoptions going to result in a ton more dogs being dumped out on the streets, or returned?

     Kimberly Williams, an Advisor on the Board of Directors for Lost Dog and Cat Rescue, reveals that this is not the case. “We thought in September or October we would start seeing more returns, like okay, school’s back, more people are going back. Not at all. We’ve actually seen this trend across the country, people aren’t seeing this increase in returns. Most people we’ve been able to talk to have said, ‘I need my dog, as much as my dog needs me.”

     Even though we’ve been going back to school, and we’ve been more busy this fall, the dogs and cats that have been adopted aren’t going back to shelters. “As long as the shelters make good decisions when they place those individual animals with the right home, those dogs will not get packed up, back into the street, when those individuals go back to work.” Di Giulian says.

     Lots of dogs have been adopted in the past few months, but there are still dogs coming into shelters every day. If you or someone you know is interested in adopting a pet, now is the time to do it! Make sure to research different breeds and shelters before making your decision. A pet can do great things for you! As Di Giulian says, “What dogs (and cats) do for people is they warm their way into your life and your heart and they give you unconditional support. That’s their job.”