Pandemic Pets: How Have Rescues Been Impacted by COVID-19



For some who opted for a pandemic pet, things have not turned out as happy as they hoped. 

“I was thinking maybe getting a kitten would brighten up the mood,” Bailey Gilbert said. When their mom’s cat had a litter who needed to go to a good home, the well-intentioned Gilbert decided to take in one of the male kittens. Then things spiraled. 

“The pandemic put my boyfriend out of work and I was working for maybe 200 dollars a week,” Gilbert said. 

Because of this, Gilbert said they could not afford to give the kitten the care that it needed.

Eventually, Gilbert chose to rehome the kitten with their sister who was in a better financial position to provide for him. Ultimately, they were not prepared to handle the financial commitment nor the time commitment involved in getting a kitten and said they regret the decision to rescue it. 

“I do think it’s good to rescue pets, but be prepared. Especially if it’s a young pet,” Gilbert said. 

With extra time on their hands, many Georgians have decided to use their quarantine to add a furry new friend to the family, and many rescues are worried about what this will mean for the future. 

“We actually did 53 adoptions so far this month,” Dee Allison, the director of the Humane Society of Houston County said in a phone interview last Tuesday. “We’re carefully screening our adopters so it’s not an impulse thing.”

Allison attributes this unheard of rise in adoptions to the pandemic. 

“People are at home,” Allison said.  “A lot of vacations are being canceled so they’ve got time to work with the rescue animals.”

Monica Springer, the foster director at Furever After Rescue agreed with this. In a phone interview Thursday night, Springer said Furever After has been impacted by COVID-19. 

Springer said that in the beginning, the pandemic forced many people living in Georgia to return to family in other states, which meant a need for more foster homes. 

“We saw a lot of dogs being rehomed because people were traveling,” Springer said. 

When the pandemic reached Georgia, however, there was also an influx in signups for volunteers wishing to foster rescue animals. Fostering a rescue means to keep a pet in the home temporarily until it gets adopted. Most rescues cover things like vet bills, medication, and food for the animal in exchange for the foster family providing the physical care for it. 

“So our rescue population went up, but then we also had more fosters,” Springer said. 

This increase in available foster parents for pets could not account for one major issue that rescues faced: a halt in dog exports to states in the North and food imports.  

Because of the harsh winter that kills most strays that are living on the streets, many rescues from states in the North bring in dogs from rescues in the South. As the pandemic worsened in northern states, the rescues that usually brought in dogs from the South stopped doing so. 

Meanwhile, the food bank services for Furever After were shut down entirely.  As the first wave hit, so did a month-long halt in food access. Springer had to work with the Atlanta Humane Society in order to get food, as the shelter’s usual supplier was unable to provide for them. 

“All of the transport for the food and actually all out of state adoptions halted for about a month because we couldn’t get anybody to travel north with our dogs,” Springer said.

Once the pandemic reached the South, many Georgians were sent to work from home. With that, came a whole new potential problem.

Those who might not have normally considered adding a new pet to the family because of time constraints were now home for enough time to be able to train and care for an animal. 

“We’re really only going to be able to see the repercussions of this once everything kind of gets back to the new normal,” Springer said. 

Both rescues noted that they believed their rescues were well equipped to handle the potential lack of preparedness from their own adopters. The Houston County Humane Society has a screening process that requires personal as well as vet references. Springer said that Furever After also works to weed out potentially unsuitable adopters during their adoptions process as well.