Predicted pet pandemic crisis mostly bypassed the Bay Area

Rescue groups feared there was a calculation when California entered a COVID lockdown and people sought companionship by adopting pets. Perhaps a day would come when people who were no longer locked in their homes might discover that adopting Fido might not have been the best decision.

Here are grounds for cautious optimism: that day has not yet arrived. So far, people keep their pets pandemic.

The Peninsula Humane Society and the SPCA, along with the Tony La Russa Animal Rescue Foundation, Berkeley Humane, and East Bay SPCA, are reporting below-average animal returns.

Allison Lindquist, President and CEO of East Bay SPCA, said rescue groups were preparing for the easing of COVID restrictions, when pet owners could start returning to their workplaces and traveling again. There were fears of a tsunami of repatriated pets, but so far there has been little ripple.

Overall, enthusiasm for pet adoption is at such a high, 13 rescues in Northern California, led by East Bay SPCA and funded by BISSELL Pet Foundation, transported more than 100 dogs this week , cats and kittens from a crowded shelter in Tulsa, Oklahoma and are looking for new homes for them.

Lindquist says she and the rescue are part of a statewide 400-member rescue coalition and they’re all monitoring the situation. No member of the group, she says, has reported any issues with returned pets and most, like East Bay SPCA, are seeing a below-average return.

Nationally, about 10 percent of all pet adoptions fail for various reasons. Buffy Martin-Tarbox, communications director for Peninsula Humane, said a main cause is that people find out they are allergic to their pets, especially cats. Other reasons include behavioral issues and incompatibility with children or other pets.

People may have difficulty with their pets, but they ask for help, which involves keeping the animal in its loving home. East Bay SPCA, whose dogs were all adopted within 48 hours of the initial shelter-in-place order, saw a strong demand for help through its behavioral hotline.

The shelter also has a full-service veterinary clinic open to the public and the clinic has been slammed with requests, Lindquist says, with many people waiting up to three months for appointments.

Contra Costa County Animal Services sees a slightly different side to the coin. It’s not so much adoption returns – when an animal returns to the shelter from which it was adopted and is relocated – as a pet goes, according to shelter spokesperson Steve Burdo, where people give up ownership of their pets. Most of the returned animals, he says, have been adopted in the past 11 months, not through the county but through Craigslist or other agencies.

Requests for remission during pre-pandemic periods, according to Burdo, averaged 100 to 150 per month. During the pandemic, the number fell to around 50 per month. So far in July, the county has received 80 requests.

“Our owner surrender process is to see the animal returned to the shelter only as a last resort or in urgent cases,” Burdo explains.

For people who might have trouble keeping their companions, here are some tips from lifeguards:

Contact the rescue where you adopted your pet to see what services are available to you. Most have experts and courses to help you change the behaviors that are causing problems. They can also guide you on ways to get your pet from being at home with the family all day long to being left alone for periods of time.

If you are evicted or run out of funds, some rescues have pet pantries and can help you find temporary homes for you and your pet, or emergency placement for your pet. .

If you need to move with your pet, emergency services can give you advice on how to negotiate a rental with your pet.

Even if you have adopted your pet from another agency or obtained the animal by other means, rescue groups are ready to work with you to find solutions. The goal, they say, is for adoption to be successful.

A recent Bay Area News Group Newsroom @Home webinar discussed the transition of pandemic animals from a shelter-in-place to a more typical schedule. The video can be viewed here and at

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