New ASPCA Survey: Vast Majority of Dogs and Cats Acquired During Pandemic Still in Their Homes
A recent survey by the ASPCA® revealed that, since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, nearly 1in 5 households acquired a cat or dog, accounting for approximately 23 million American households based on the 2019 US Census. The survey also revealed the vast majority of these households still have that pet in their home and that animals who were rehomed were placed with friends, family members, and neighbors more frequently than relinquished to shelters and rescues.
Between May 17 and June 1, 2021, the ASPCA commissioned a general population survey to provide a comprehensive understanding of dog and cat ownership and acquisition of pets during the COVID-19 pandemic. The survey examined responses from a national sample of 10,044 individuals 18 years and older residing in the continental United States, Alaska, and Hawaii.
Survey participants were asked about their ownership of dogs and cats before March 2020, the acquisition of animals during the pandemic, and the current state of those animals. They were also asked to rate their degree of concern on issues, including their ability to afford veterinary care for their pets, focusing on the impact of those concerns on animal ownership in the subsequent three months.
The survey revealed that an overwhelming majority of dogs and cats acquired during the pandemic(nearly 90%) were still in their homes, corroborating findings from national shelter databases indicating that dogs and cats were not being surrendered to shelters in large numbers on a national basis. This data suggests that pet owners remain committed to caring for their animals.
Those who had dogs and/or cats before March 2020 were also significantly more likely to have acquired one during the pandemic than those without a pet at the start of the pandemic. This finding aligns with prior research suggesting that the decision to acquire a pet commonly is heavily influenced by previous pet ownership.
Respondents reported the following lingering concerns:
Desire to travel and limitations pets impose: 46%
Ability to afford vet care: 45%
Not having time to spend with pet: 37%
Behavior issues because of schedule change: 33%
Housing insecurity: 30%
Employment and job security: 25%
Despite these concerns, 88% of current pet owners, including those who acquired their pets before the pandemic, said they were not considering rehoming their pets in the near future.
“Our research shows no significant risk of animals being re-homed by their owners now or in the near future as a result of the lifting of pandemic-related restrictions.”
As COVID-19 restrictions continue to be lifted across the country, most surveyed pet owners are incorporating pets into their lifestyles, with 90% of dogs and 87% of cats still in their homes.
Despite alarmist headlines and isolated reports about owner surrenders, this trend is not evident nationally, according to national shelter data.
This study shows that pet owners rehomed animals with friends, family members, and neighbors more frequently than relinquishing them to animal shelters and rescues.
While some pandemic-related restrictions had been lifted when data was collected in May 2021, many were still in effect. Consequently, it’s difficult to predict how pet ownership trends will change and how many individuals will rehome their animals once all restrictions are lifted.