A Pet Pandemic Boom – Adirondack Explorer

Carla Stroud, director of the Tri-Lakes Humane Society’s Saranac Lake shelter, plays with Kita, who was adopted shortly after this photo was taken. Photo by Mike Lynch

Shelters celebrate as vets try to meet extreme demand

By Holly Riddle

In early 2020, as many employees began working remotely and families began spending more time at home, it was not uncommon to see the term “pandemic pet boom” floating around. . the American Pet Products Association estimates that more than 11 million American households adopted a new pet between March and September 2020. But what was the so-called pandemic pet boom in the Adirondacks like? And were there any downsides to this sudden and strong growth in pet ownership?

For shelters and pet shelters in the area, the “boom” has certainly been a good thing. Carla Stroud, director of the Tri-Lakes Humane Society shelter in Saranac Lake, notes, “We’ve seen an increase in cat adoptions and foster homes, but the really great thing has been finding loving homes for some of them. of our hard-to-place pets, a few of them. who had been at the shelter for some time. The shelter facilitated 208 adoptions in 2020 (compared to 185 in 2019), followed by 157 adoptions in 2021. “It seems people are more open to welcoming new pets into their lives and could be more open. [to] more difficult it is to place pets than before. This seems to fit with the growing trend of more people treating pets as family,” she adds.

At the North Country SPCA in Elizabethtown, executive director Wendy Beeman reports something similar. “We saw an increase in adoptions and fewer surrenders in 2020. We believe this is because more people were working from home and could spend more time introducing and bonding with new pets, and the lower number of surrenders could be the same reasoning. Figures for 2021 were lower overall. In 2020, the shelter organized 225 adoptions, compared to 221 in 2019. In 2021, there were 142 adoptions.

pet adoptions
Graphic by Melissa Hart

For several pet adoptive parents at the Tri-Lakes Humane Society, even though the pandemic was not necessarily their reason for adopting, they still noticed the impacts of the pandemic on their experiences.

Shelly Smith adopted her cat Bartlett in September 2021 and says she has “absolutely” spent more time with Bartlett than she might otherwise have.

“Normally I would have been on the go, or worked before, so it gave me 24/7 with him…It’s nice to be able to do that, but I can see where the animals would have a problem, then, as people go back to work,” she says, noting that potential separation anxiety is also a concern for her, as she prepares to travel out of state. “Although [my pets] will be with someone they know very well, they will miss me very much. I’m worried about this, especially for [Bartlett] … He is very attached.

pet boom
Uma the cat takes a break to eat at the Tri-Lakes Human Society in Saranac Lake. American Pet Products Association estimated that more than 11 million American households adopted a new pet between March and September 2020Photo by MIke Lynch

Tim Kelly has adopted Quin, a seven-year-old half-breed who can be wary of strangers. Kelly was worried about the pandemic-related rules at the vet’s office. “We weren’t allowed in with her into the vet office,” he said. “So we were worried about handing her over to someone. But everything went well. »

However, new social distancing requirements weren’t the only things impacting regional veterinary offices. As more and more pets found new homes in the area, the demand for pet products and services, such as healthcare, increased, causing problems.

Bobbi Levesque, hospital manager at VCA High Peaks Animal Hospital in Ray Brook, reports that the office serves a number of seasonal patients in surrounding vacation communities, with demand fluctuating throughout the year, but these fluctuations seemed to stabilize during the pandemic, with demand remaining consistent.

“We’ve never really had a slow season,” she says. With the new safety protocols, it became more difficult to see more patients each day, and fewer vets and staff were available overall to handle the higher workloads, due both to the pandemic and a national shortage of veterinary talent. At one point, the office was forced to limit its care to only sick or emergency cases.

However, it is not just the general influx of pet adoptions that has led to an increase in demand. More time at home for all pet parents meant, in many cases, greater and new attention to animal health.

“As pet owners spent a lot more time at home, they were paying more attention to their pets and noticing things they might not have before, like behavioral changes, masses or skin issues, all leading to more calls and the need for appointments,” Lévesque says.

pet boom
Frosty the cat lives at the Tri-Lakes Humane Society in Saranac Lake. Photo by Mike Lynch

A similar demand has been seen in the pet supplies and products industry. Sabine Weber owns Man and Beast in Lake Placid and says overall demand for pet supplies has increased during the pandemic, leading to higher prices and continued product shortages. She also notes that the shortage of veterinarians has also impacted her business, as more customers have entered the store with questions they might normally ask a pet health care provider.

Both Weber and Levesque said they noticed more pet parents were looking for solutions for anxious animals because many young dogs did not receive adequate socialization in the early days of the pandemic.

Still, even with the challenges, Levesque says she’s glad to see pet owners paying attention to their animal‘s health needs and she hopes that attention will continue. VCA High Peaks Animal Hospital has therefore made small adjustments to its offerings to better meet the ongoing challenge of increased demand, such as offering a 24/7 live chat option that connects patients with accredited technicians at any time of day, to help patients quickly determine if an emergency veterinary visit is necessary.

Regional shelters have also made adjustments, even with the positive increase in adoptions. At the Tri-Lakes Humane Society, Stroud says, “We’re doing more to try to keep pets home with the people who love them. Sometimes that means helping to make neutering more affordable, offering behavioral counseling, providing access to our pet food pantry, attempting [a] returning home to the field – reuniting lost animals with their people without coming to the shelter whenever possible – or providing courtesy assignments to help reintegrate animals without them needing to enter the shelter.

Shelter, veterinarian or pet product supplier, however, one thing has remained the same for pet industry professionals throughout the pandemic, regardless of the challenges. All are ready to meet these challenges head-on, if it means keeping Adirondack animals healthy and happy.


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