Perhaps one of the best things to come out of the COVID-19 pandemic is the increase in pet adoption and subsequent decrease of animals in shelters. However, that uptick in pet ownership looks like it’s just temporary—a study conducted by Merck Animal Health revealed that 73 percent of first-time dog parents are considering re-homing their animal once the pandemic ends.
This trend is only going to be exacerbated by the holiday season, as the next few weeks typically see millions of families bringing new pets into the home and losing interest when the animal gets too big, has too much energy or is more of a commitment than people initially thought.
This undoubtably stems from lack of education on behalf of first-time pet parents coupled with the realization that caring for an animal goes beyond bringing it into your home—it’s hard work. Specifically, 25 percent of those surveyed claimed they don’t have enough information to properly care for their dog, 58 percent wish taking care of their pet’s was less time-consuming and 33 percent were surprised to find out how much it costs to take care of their pet.
For puppies, specifically, 38 percent of those who adopted puppies during the pandemic were surprised by how much attention their pet requires, while 33 percent are considering re-homing their puppy due to its high energy and 35 percent didn’t expect flea and tick prevention to be more difficult than housekeeping.
Adult rescue dogs have it particularly hard, as they’ve often bounced from shelter to house back to shelter, and need at least a month to settle into their new environment and feel comfortable. That insecurity, recklessness and often destructive behavior is misconstrued as the animal simply being “bad” and results in another re-homing.
As far as I’m concerned, this is inexcusable behavior—all it takes is about 10 minutes with Google to figure out what bringing a new animal into the house will entail. But I digress. Unfortunately, there’s not much to be done, as you can't force education on people and there’s no magic wand that can be waved to suddenly make pet care easier.
For those willing to look, the tools for education are out there. For its part, Merck provided pieces of advice with its survey results and, in addition to industry-affiliated groups, such as the Human Animal Bond Research Institute, there's a variety of websites that offer helpful information and infographics to help curb the growing problem of giving up pets.