Kittens of black, beige and tan meowed from their cages Friday inside the Cortland Community SPCA as Emily Bach passed by before taking a yellow short-haired cat named Mario out of his cage.
While reports of animals adopted during the pandemic and later return as restrictions have loosened have come up, Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals officials in Cortland and Tompkins counties have said that’s not the case in their respective counties.
“I don’t think they would return them just because things have changed,” said Bach, the shelter operations manager for the Cortland Community SPCA.
Nationwide, similar trends have been noted.
“Despite alarmist headlines tied to regional reports of a surge in owner surrenders, this trend is not currently evident on a national level with many organizations simply seeing a return to pre-pandemic operations and intake,” the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said in a May 26 statement. However, shelters in Otsego and Delaware counties have reported an increase in animals being returned to them, as have shelters in Pittsburg, San Diego and Dallas.
Bach said that adoptions did slow down because the COVID-19 pandemic required changes to the adoption process that added time to the process. No longer could people just come in and look at animals. Instead they had to find an animal they were interested in on the SPCA’s website, schedule a visit and go from there.
The returns of pets that have happened during the pandemic tend to be more for normal reasons, said Jim Bouderau, the executive director of the Tompkins County SPCA.
“Most shelters will see some adoptions that don’t work out” for reasons like bad fits, he said.
Bouderau said the number of animals returned during the pandemic was nothing out of the ordinary, though he did not have details.
The Tompkins County SPCA saw a slight uptick in the number of pets adopted during the pandemic, Bouderau said.
Eight hundred forty one animals were adopted in 2020 out and 1,077 animals were brought in for an adoption rate of 78%, compared to 1,066 animals adopted in 2019 and 1,375 animals brought in for an adoption rate of 77.5%.
Bouderau said this may have been in the early stages where people were working from home and had more time to be around a new pet.
“It was just that people had the time to dedicate to introducing an animal to their home,” he said. The lack of time, he said, is often what prevents people from adopting pets.
While appointments still need to be scheduled for animal visits at both SPCAs, Bach said she thinks more people will adopt an animal when the shelter fully reopens without restrictions in August.
Bouderau expects adoptions to be at a normal rate in the fall and later this year.