COVID-19 pet adoption continues to rise as owners continue to isolate themselves

While COVID-19 has brought unspeakable misery to people around the world, for at least one dog in Sangamon County, it has brought incredible joy.

Twain, a dog of uncertain pedigree, has found a home during the pandemic with Brigid Leahy of Athens. Leahy, who lives alone, has found Twain to be a wonderful companion during this time of social distancing and remote working.

“He was rescued from a hoarding situation and hadn’t been socialized at all,” Leahy said. “But during this time that we’ve been together and in lockdown he’s really come out of his shell and enjoying the attention.”

Officially, Twain is a foster dog for the League for the Protection of Animals, or APL. But after living with Leahy for months, he seems set to settle down for good.

“Normally when I feed a dog it is exposed to a lot of different people. But Twain wasn’t because of the pandemic. And it’s not clear how well he will interact with others because he hasn’t been properly socialized, ”Leahy said.

Twain is part of a trend unfolding in Springfield and across the country, according to area vets and shelter managers.

“At the moment we have four dogs and four cats to adopt. A year ago, just before the pandemic, we had 25 dogs and 25 cats to adopt. So the numbers are definitely down, ”said Greg Largent, executive director of Sangamon County Animal Control.

Deana Corbin, who heads the PLA, said her shelter had a similar experience.

Interest in adoptions remains high and fewer people are abandoning their pets, Largent said.

“People who may have already given up on their pets because of behavioral issues are now more at home and have time to work with them,” Largent said. “Plus, pets are great companionship during this time of isolation.”

But Springfield veterinarian Amy Wolf of Wolf Veterinary Services said the economy could play a role as well.

“People can’t go out to eat, they can’t go to the movies. A lot of the things they would have spent money on in the past are gone. So they spend money on pets.

But what about the people who lost their jobs during the pandemic?

“If you’ve lost your job and you’re going through a rough time in your life, the last thing you’ll want to give up is your pet. They are a source of unconditional love and comfort, ”said Largent.

The link between the pandemic and pet adoptions can be seen only from the names given to the animals. Wolf said he cared for a cat named Covi and a dog named Covida.

Sarah Smith, a veterinarian at the Sangamon Avenue Veterinarian Clinic, said she had also seen an increase in the number of new pet owners during the pandemic – and more animal health concerns.

“We are seeing more and more animals with separation anxiety issues,” she said. “They’re used to having mom and dad with them all day. And now that people are returning to their workplaces, animals become anxious when left alone.

Common behaviors in dogs with separation anxiety include incessantly digging and chewing, barking, urinating and defecating when the owner leaves or is away.

Smith said this has led more people to choose to place their pets in day care at his clinic’s boarding house.

Obesity is another consequence of the pandemic on animal health.

“Since they are more often at home with their owners, they receive more treats and gain weight,” she said.

Smith added that many of his new patients were purchased from breeders rather than adopted from shelters.

“We are seeing a lot of puppies and kittens from pet owners for the first time,” she said. “They are choosing to have pets to fill a void in their lives during this pandemic. “

About Patrick K. Moon

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