WAUKESHA – Demand for pet adoption has remained high at local humane societies since the COVID-19 pandemic, with many new owners spending time at home with their furry friends.
According to Angela Speed, vice president of communications with the Wisconsin Humane Society, pet consumption has dropped significantly since the pandemic — in Wisconsin and nationally, ultimately a positive thing — which means less pets were in need. However, strong demand for adoption remained, continuing into 2021.
“We know animals provide stress relief and companionship, and it was a beautiful thing to know that animals provide companionship to lonely people during the pandemic,” she said.
Speed said they also saw more volunteers for adoptive pet parents, which was hugely positive.
The biggest difference the Wisconsin Humane Society has seen in the past year is that cat consumption has increased. The need for adoptive parents, especially for cats and kittens, also still exists, Speed said.
When it comes to adoptions, the Humane Animal Welfare Society of Waukesha County had a record year for cat adoptions in 2019-20 with a 14% rate increase. They continued to see strong numbers in 2020-21, said Lynn Olenik, executive director of HAWS. The total number of dog adoptions fell 4% in fiscal year 2019-2020, but rebounded 5% in 2021.
The Elmbrook Humane Society also saw a high number of adoptions in 2020 and 2021, totaling around 80-85% of its intake.
As many other shelters across the country report, the Wisconsin Humane Society also saw no significant difference in animal returns in 2021 compared to 2020. Speed said that while it was speculated there could be a high number of pet returns as COVID-19 restrictions were lifted and individuals were expected to return to work, it did not. was not the case.
“This continues for 2021, our return rate is reduced compared to previous years,” she said. Speed said this may not be true for all local humanitarian societies.
Olenik said HAWS has not heard of people returning pets due to changes in pandemic-related schedules. Dropouts have dropped at HAWS compared to pre-COVID.
“What we’ve noticed as a trend is people asking for more behavioral support for their pets, because even pets they’ve had for a long time, you hang around with your dog for a year and then you have to go back to work,” she said.
Heather Gehrke, executive director of the Elmbrook Humane Society, said she saw a slight increase in the number of requests to transfer to Brookfield, but it is not due to the return to work either.
Olenik said there has also been an increase in the number of requests to accept pet transports.
“I think Waukesha County is somewhat unique, here you have the resources to take care of your animals where some poorer areas don’t,” she said. “Waukesha County is a little off the normal trend.”