- More dogs (and cats) are being adopted during the pandemic
- Leash and pet toy sales have skyrocketed year over year
- So have pet diaper sales
There are plenty of negatives about the COVID-19 pandemic, but there has been at least one beneficial outcome: It has saved countless dog lives and put them in homes with humans who have more than enough time to take care of all their needs. So, while the pandemic has been brutal for so many, it’s also created a plethora of happy dogs.
The pet industry is booming. The Washington Post reported that shelters, nonprofit rescues, private breeders, and pet stores all have had more demand than dogs to supply. While rescues reported dozens of applications for some dogs, breeders said they now have waitlists until well into 2021.
In a July survey, Nielsen found that 20% of respondents said they adopted one or more dogs or cats between March and June in 2020. That’s 5% more than last year, according to USA Today.
The timing makes sense. During a pandemic, when people work from home and socialize less, they have enough time for the puppy training process. And when people do go out, they are mostly spending their time outdoors and in patio spaces that allow dogs. Plus, people are just plain lonely—though maybe not as lonely as you’d assume—since they see their loved ones less.
Economists aren’t just seeing a massive increase in pet sales, either. USA Today found that there have been surges in vet visits, rising sales of leashes and pet toys, and more enrolled pets in insurance plans. Online pet product store Chewy said it had its busiest quarter ever this spring.
According to Nielsen, leash sales increased to $44.6 million, up 13% for the 24-week period ending on Aug. 15. Pet toy sales increased 18%, to $243 million, for the same period.
VetSuccess told USA Today that the average daily revenue at vet practices increased by more than 14% in July and August. Plus, revenue from visits for vaccines alone rose more than 21%, indicating that many of the pet visits were for new pets.
Oddly enough, pet diaper sales have also spiked more than 202% for the 24 weeks ending Aug. 15, and it’s apparently because there are more people adopting puppies who need house training, as well as older or sick dogs who have incontinence issues.
Some may worry that potentially impulsive puppy purchases might lead to a boom in surrenders to shelters once the pandemic ends because people will return to school, work, and a social lifestyle that is no longer conducive to owning a pet.
But some rescue shelter employees say they are confident that the happy dogs are finding their fur-ever home. Because of the increase in demand, shelters and breeders alike can be more selective of where a dog goes home.
For example, in Australia, the Guardian reported that shelter fees spiked as high as $1,800 in some areas and turned applicants away for details as small as having other dogs live in the same neighborhood.
Katy Hansen, director of marketing and communications at Animal Care Centers of NYC, said the shelter had seen lower-than-usual return rates on adopted dogs. It’s apparently not just about happy dogs. It’s happy dog owners, as well.
“There’s so much more interaction with the shelters before the adoption,” Hansen said. “You’re getting people who have found the animal on your website or on social media, have seen the video, read the bio, sent the email, asked for more information, then we do the virtual meet-and-greet—there’s a lot more interaction before the adoption happens. It shows that the person is really invested.”