For Chrissy Pham Quintana’s family, adopting a new dog during the pandemic turned out well for them and for their new furry family member.
Quintana’s family adopted 2-year-old Sky from Animal Friends Alliance in Fort Collins over the summer, 10 months after another family dog of theirs died in September. Sky came to Animal Friends Alliance after being surrendered by her owner when neighbors called animal control to check on the dog, which neighbors said they often saw tied up in the backyard, Quintana said.
“I think it helps that we were all home when we got her so she could get used to the house and our family,” Quintana said. “… It’s been quite healing, I think, for the family to get her.”
Adoption agencies across Northern Colorado have seen an increase in adoptions during the pandemic, especially early on, as people stuck at home craved companionship or found it to be a good opportunity to welcome a new pet into their lives.
Animal Friends Alliance has adopted out more than 1,000 dogs and 2,000 cats so far in 2020, a new record for the 14-year-old rescue group, according to a previous news release.
“We are so proud that despite all the challenges we’ve faced this year, Animal Friends Alliance continues to find new ways to connect more homeless animals with loving families and to provide vital support to keep pets in their homes,” Executive Director Sarah Swanty said in a news release.
With patience, Quintana said Sky has really come out of her shell and showed the family her playful personality.
“She just fulfilled everyone’s need of having a young dog in the house again,” Quintana said.
Sky joined the family after Quintana said they promised their 9-year-old daughter a new dog for her birthday. While the pandemic and stay-at-home orders didn’t factor into why they adopted a new pet, the circumstances impacted their search.
“I feel like there was an adoption spree at the beginning,” Quintana said.
As the demand for adoptable animals was increasing, the pandemic and COVID-19 restrictions also forced the Larimer Humane Society to change how it adopts out animals, spokesperson Justin Clapp said. It has shifted to having potential adopters make appointments and limited the number of people allowed in the building at a time instead of just letting people walk through on their own. Clapp said some days he would see a line of five or 10 people waiting outside before they opened.
When the humane society closed for six weeks in March and April due to COVID-19 restrictions, Clapp said they had to lean on fosters to care for the animals. In the three weeks after reopening, Clapp said they saw a 46% increase in adoptions from the same time period in 2019.
That trend has continued through the year and has started to level off since November, Clapp said. While November 2020 adoptions were about even with last year’s, Clapp said the nonprofit has seen animals adopted quicker than previous years.
In 2020, the average length of stay for an animal in their facility has been 10 days, down from an average of 12 days in 2019.
This number is also slightly skewed because it includes animals housed by the humane society during the Cameron Peak Fire, Clapp said, with some of those animals at their facility the entire length of the fire.
In general, Clapp said its not unusual to see an animal adopted within the first five hours it’s available.
“When we have an animal that goes up for adoption … it’s amazing to see them get adopted that afternoon,” Clapp said. “… It shows how much the community cares for these animals.”
Stay-at-home and safer-at-home COVID-19 restrictions have motivated some people to adopt a new pet who may have wanted to in the past but, for them, it wasn’t the right time.
“They’re home more, so they’re able to bond with their new pet,” Clapp said, which also makes it easier for the animals to adapt to their new homes.
People who might live alone and are now working from home might adopt because they need companionship. Clapp also said he talked to one family who said they used this time at home with their new pet to teach their children pet ownership responsibility.
As adoption rates start to slow back to past years’ levels, Clapp said they’re speculating that some people and families who have been considering adopting during the pandemic might do so in the new year.
And as people head back to work and school in-person, it’s an opportunity for people who have adopted a pet recently to adopt a second pet to keep the other company.
“People are still going to be interested in getting that companion animal if they don’t have one yet,” Clapp said.
Christine Evans of Wellington said she and her family adopted Cheerio, a kitten from Animal Friends Alliance, in November as a companion for their cat.
With the family home more due to COVID-19, they were able to help bring out Cheerio’s personality and bond with him quickly, Evans said.
The new kitten has adapted well to their home of two dogs, another cat and three children, and has especially bonded with Evans’ daughter, she said.
“It makes being home fun,” Evans said. “It gives us something to look forward to.”
Adopting Cheerio has brought more fun and joy into their family’s life, Evans said, and she encouraged others to give adopting a new pet a chance.
“It will bring love and companionship into their home that they didn’t know they needed,” Evans said. “The affection these animals give is pretty special.”
Sady Swanson covers public safety, K-12 education and more throughout Northern Colorado. You can send your story ideas to her at [email protected] or on Twitter at @sadyswan. Support her work and that of other Coloradoan journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.