There’s no denying COVID-19 is at the top of every conversation. Quarantine is the new lifestyle and our country has begun to prepare for an economic super storm.

Pet shelters across the nation also are preparing for the “new norm” may look like.

Pet ownership is currently skyrocketing. Prior to COVID, it was one of the fastest growing industries.

When the pandemic hit, animal welfare acted quickly to remind folks to not leave pets in shelters. After all, pets relieve stress and anxiety. Pet adoptions in March and April increased in most U.S. cities. As the weeks continued, many animals were returned when freshly new pet owners began to buy their first bags of food, or pay for trips to the vet and panicked.

Having a pet is a large financial commitment, on average $500 to $1200 a year when the animal is healthy. There is certainly a scary truth that as we continue down the road to recovery post COVID, many more pets will be getting rehomed when they don’t make the budget cuts.

Heartland Humane Society handed out over 1,000 pounds of dog and cat food in less than 10 days back in early April. The food bank program is established to keep pets with their owners, known as intake diversion. If the economic turmoil doesn’t improve, programs like this will have to evaluate how to best help their communities.

However, if we can relate pet ownership back to the Great Depression, it wasn’t all bad. While pet ownership looked completely different, pet owners greatly adored and cared for their animals.

Pet ownership included geese, squirrels and alligators. Movie stars often showcased their pet elephants or tigers. Folks brought their pet bears or leopards to dinner parties. There was such a thing as a pet ambulance.

Pets were often dressed up like humans and photographed - think about the famous dogs playing poker or billiards. Pets, including sheep or goats, often road in sidecars with their human. Photographers loved putting glasses on pets or propping a cigar in their mouth for photographs.

Petey was a popular Pit bull in Little Rascals. The world loved this breed and nicknamed it the “nanny dog.” A Pit bull was the first dog to cross the United States in an automobile, as well, and was wildly photographed on the journey. Pictures of pets were common on front pages of newspapers.  

What pet ownership looks like in 15 years is anyone’s guess. Will the industry financially tank? Will families continue to advocate and budget to cover pet ownership costs? Will we ever see a pet ambulance? It’s likely to take a big shift in the coming months and years. I’ll be interested to see how it plays out.

(1) comment


Please, stop pushing pit bulls into communities.

A five-year review of dog-bite injuries from the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, published in 2009 in the journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, found that almost 51 percent of the attacks were from pit bulls.

And a 2011 study from the Annals of Surgery revealed that "attacks by pit bulls are associated with higher morbidity rates, higher hospital charges and a higher risk of death than are attacks by other breeds of dogs."

The authors of that 2011 study go on to say, "Strict regulation of pit bulls may substantially reduces the U.S. mortality rates related to dog bites."

Support vicious dog laws AND breed specific legislation - keep communities safe.

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