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Characterizing pet acquisition and retention during the COVID-19 pandemic

By C. L. Hoffman, M. Thibault, J. Hong

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In March 2020, Americans began experiencing numerous lifestyle changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Some reports have suggested that pet acquisition and ownership increased during this period, and some have suggested shelters and rescues will be overwhelmed once pandemic-related restrictions are lifted and lifestyles shift yet again. In May 2021, the ASPCA hired the global market research company Ipsos to conduct a general population survey that would provide a more comprehensive picture of pet ownership and acquisition during the pandemic. Although pet owners care for a number of species, the term pet owner in this study specifically refers to those who had dogs and/or cats. One goal of the survey was to determine whether data from a sample of adults residing in the United States would corroborate findings from national shelter databases indicating that animals were not being surrendered to shelters in large numbers. Furthermore, this survey gauged individuals' concerns related to the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions, and analyses examined factors associated with pet owners indicating they were considering rehoming an animal within the next 3 months. The data showed that pet ownership did not increase during the pandemic and that pets may have been rehomed in greater numbers than occurs during more stable times. Importantly, rehomed animals were placed with friends, family members, and neighbors more frequently than they were relinquished to animal shelters and rescues. Findings associated with those who rehomed an animal during the pandemic, or were considering rehoming, suggest that animal welfare organizations have opportunities to increase pet retention by providing resources regarding pet-friendly housing and affordable veterinary options and by helping pet owners strategize how to incorporate their animals into their post-pandemic lifestyles.

Date 2021
Publication Title Frontiers in Veterinary Science
Volume 7
Issue November
DOI 10.3389/fvets.2021.781403
Author Address Department of Animal Behavior, Ecology and Conservation, Canisius College, Buffalo, New York, USA.hoffmanc@canisius.edu
Additional Language English
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animals
  2. Animal welfare
  3. Anthrozoology
  4. APEC countries
  5. Canidae
  6. Canine
  7. Carnivores
  8. Cats
  9. Covid-19
  10. Diseases
  11. Dogs
  12. Epidemiology
  13. Human development
  14. Humans
  15. Income
  16. Infectious diseases
  17. Mammals
  18. Men
  19. New York
  20. North America
  21. OECD countries
  22. open access
  23. Pandemics
  24. pathogens
  25. pet care
  26. Pets and companion animals
  27. Prevalence
  28. Primates
  29. Psychiatry and psychology
  30. shelters
  31. Social psychology and social anthropology
  32. surveys
  33. syndromes
  34. United States of America
  35. vertebrates
  36. Veterinary sciences
  37. Virus diseases
  38. Zoology
  1. open access