For the Love of Dogs, a shelterless rescue based in the Mad River Valley, saw a record number of adoptions during the pandemic. In a typical year, they adopt out approximately 300 to 400 dogs. During the pandemic, that number jumped to 800 dogs adopted in a year. More people were seeking out furry companions while working and schooling from home. Carole Moore of For Love of Dogs said that adoptions have decreased noticeably since June, as people began to return to normal routines and travel more. Their available foster homes have decreased, too, and they’ve had to turn dogs away due to lack of volunteer availability.
When COVID began in winter/spring 2020, For Love of Dogs was one of just a few rescues in Vermont that were still accepting dogs from other places, such as the south. Many shelters were closed or extremely limited. The Central Vermont Humane Society (CVHS) in East Montpelier was unable to transport dogs from its usual partners in the south for several months during the pandemic. When they were able to resume transporting dogs, they saw a slight uptick in adoptions (about 1,100 in the last year, compared to a typical year of roughly 1,000 dogs).
80-100 DOGS PER MONTH
For about 14 months, Moore said they were taking approximately 80 to 100 dogs per month from the south, though those numbers are slowing down to pre-pandemic rates, about 50 dogs per month. They had to make the conscious decision to ask shelters to find somewhere else to send some dogs, as “We couldn’t keep up with the pace.” For Love of Dogs is volunteer-run, with typically four to six volunteers. The availability of volunteers and foster homes has decreased as people have gone back to work and other activities. “We currently have 300 dogs waiting in Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Alabama,” she said. “I could have a lot more. I have to say no to many of them. We’re a small rescue, we get overwhelmed.”
Moore said her organization has had to do a lot of rehoming recently. “The increase of rehoming requests in the last few months has really surprised me,” she said. “Some families have become overwhelmed” with balancing their new pet with family and changing schedules. “The most requests I’m getting in the last two months have been a large increase in people who either bought from breeders or adopted from other rescues or shelters now asking to rehome their dogs.” She’s not seeing many of the dogs her rescue has adopted out returned.
MORE ANIMALS NEEDING HOMES
Laurie Garrison of CVHS also said they are not seeing many dogs they’ve adopted out returned as a result of the pandemic, but they are seeing more animals who need homes. She said the main reason they get dogs is financial constraints, which have gotten worse over the course of the pandemic. She said unemployment and housing are some of the factors that contribute to more animals needing homes. She said the increase in demand for affordable housing has allowed landlords to be more selective and many opt to take tenants that don’t come with pets. She also said there’s a shortage of veterinarians in the area, which limits appointment availability, resulting in fewer animals being spayed and neutered.
Rehoming requests strain already-strapped rescues like For Love of Dogs. “Rehoming takes an enormous amount of energy and time,” Moore said, “time to meet the dogs, talk to the owner, figure out what’s going on…” Most of the rehoming Moore has been coordinating come from other shelters or organizations. She credits For Love of Dogs’ rigorous adoption process and network with helping owners cope with their new pet. In their application, they ask owners what their life is going to look like in two years, whether they’ll be able to accommodate their new pet in the future. She said some adoptive families have reached out to them now that they’re going back to work to ask for recommendations of doggy day cares or dog walkers.
Moore cited behavioral issues in dogs as a major problem, which she thinks stem from not being able to socialize the dogs as much as one might during normal times. “I absolutely think behavioral issues are COVID-related,” noting that many people have adopted breeds that aren’t conducive to their home or family. For instance, breeds such as shepherds and other herding dogs that are high-energy, intelligent and need to work require a lot of time, energy and space that many owners lack, particularly as kids go back to school and adults return to work and have less availability.
Garrison echoed concerns over behavioral issues contributing to the need for rehoming pets. “Anecdotally, I’m hearing people reporting dogs with more separation anxiety and things like that.” She also said, “One hypothesis is that humans have been under stress, which is felt by their pets.”
Despite the challenges of the pandemic, “I think COVID had a positive impact for dogs in need,” Moore said. “COVID saved a lot of dogs who wouldn’t be alive today.”