The Effect of the Pandemic on Animal Shelters


Maryland Department of Agriculture

Pictured here are dogs eagerly waiting for their forever home, separated by cinder blocks and metal fencing.

Paige Reddick, Photojournalist

While quarantine has allowed for many individuals and families to adopt a pet during the course of the coronavirus pandemic, many stories of new additions to our peers’ homes have been plentiful. However, the increase in pet adoptions in certain areas has begun to overshadow the harsh realities that this pandemic has brought to families who own pets, and the strays of many areas. 


Across the nation and the globe, animal abandonments have been increasing as a result of COVID-19. One of the first reasons for this upwards trend is misinformation. Many pet owners who do not have adequate access to information, or were misinformed by another, have begun to believe that their pets have the ability to pass on the coronavirus. To avoid any possibility of infection, some have resorted to abandoning these pets. Despite the American Veterinary Medical Association claiming that pets will not pass the virus to their owners, individuals are still returning their pets to shelters as a result of this rumored belief ( This misinformation is not only false but is harming the lives of animals globally. Because this paranoia and false knowledge can be deadly to some pets, it’s imperative to strike down any claims that house pets are capable of spreading this virus to their owners (


While many of us may not have experienced extensive financial hardship during the pandemic, millions have around us — some in our own communities and many others in all areas of the world. With money needed to be saved for absolute necessities, such as food, shelter, utilities, medical needs, etc., many families and individuals have had to make the incredibly difficult decision to put their pets up for adoption. Because Natalie Jamison (11) is extremely close with her bulldog, Alice, it is “incredibly hard for [her] to hear that some are forced to give up their pets during this pandemic.” As a result of these struggles, shelters have continually received pets from loving families who are unable to afford their needs. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals explains how the economic downturns caused by the pandemic have resulted in approximately 4.2 million pets entering into poverty since August of last year. With a large number of individuals entering into poverty, the number of pets surrendered for financial reasons has become more common ( Thus, the population of pets who have been surrendered by their owners is increasing in shelters nationwide (


Looking from a more global perspective, the pandemic has also dramatically hurt the stray populations of numerous countries. While strays are not as common in the United States as they are in Europe or South America, some American locations are still affected. These stray dogs and cats rely heavily on restaurants for a food and water source as restaurants often leave out water bowls and extra food from the day. Because many restaurants have been forced to close or decrease activity, many strays are left without the ability to feed on scraps that many restaurants may provide. And with shelter vacancy decreasing for the aforementioned reasons, these strays are left hungry and without aid ( 


It’s important to acknowledge the positive effects on shelters in certain areas from the pandemic, but it’s equally as important to acknowledge the devastating effects as well. Those with misinformation, those who are financially or emotionally unable to care for a pet, and the hungry strays remind us that this pandemic has affected more than just us. I hope that these realizations inspire you Mustangs to support, visit, donate, foster, or adopt a pet at your local shelter, and to also show some extra love to our own pets or the pets around us. 


Local Shelter Information

OC Animal Care: (714) 935-6848

Home Free Animal Rescue and Sanctuary: (657) 600-8380

Happier Tails Rescue: (714) 222-7169

Los Angeles County Animal Shelter: (562) 940-6898

Priceless Pet Rescue: (909) 203-3695