Animals

The Truth About Cats and Dogs During the Pandemic? Not What You Think.

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Contrary to the reports of all those “epidemic pups,” 2020 hasn’t been a great year for animal shelters. And 2021 is heading for the worse.

Overall adoptions of dogs and cats — at least in shelters and rescues — are down in 2020 compared to 2019, according to Pethealth Inc. , a pet insurance company that has created a shelter management program used by about 70% of animal shelters and rescues in the North. America.

Pethealth data indicates that adoptions this year are much lower. Even more alarming is that more animals were killed between January and October than in the same period last year.

“The number of animals being pets and how long they stay is increasing,” says Michelle Cole, chief marketing and sales officer for Pethealth in Oakville, Ontario, which operates under the North American brand 24Petwatch. The company’s adoption tracking software is used by more than 1,100 animal welfare organizations.

Ms Cole says the labor shortage affecting other industries is also hampering the flow of animals available for adoption. Shelters and rescue groups usually coordinate moving animals from the south, where animals can breed year-round, to the north, where demand exceeds supply. But, as Ms. Cole notes, the number of shelter staff has fallen, including the number of veterinarians who perform required medical evaluations before moving animals across state lines.

Ms Cole says that because of the shelter’s limited capacity, euthanasia rates in some parts of the South have reached levels not seen in a decade.

In the future, Ms Cole says, sophisticated apps such as those running some dating sites could improve adoption rates at animal shelters. Envision a digital tool that gives potential owners the ability to perform real-time searches for adoptable animals across multiple shelters and sort results based on animal type, size and age.

For now, however, Ms. Cole encourages potential owners to adopt older cats and dogs, which are usually less desirable and therefore more prone to euthanasia. She adds that potential owners can pay for an animal to be evaluated by a private vet so that it can be moved abroad.

Ms Cole says that unless more animals are moved to areas where the demand is high, “we expect the problem to get worse”.

Ms. DiCarpo is a writer in South Carolina. It can be reached at report@wsj.com.

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