Puppy pals help combat isolation, loneliness from shelter-in-place

Pet adoptions surge during quarantine

Avery Stout, Finley Simon

With the continued shelter-in-place order, many San Franciscans are looking at adoption agencies to invite the presence of a furry friend into their hearts and homes to combat feelings of isolation and loneliness.

“We agreed that quarantine would give us a lot of time to train and socialize our new puppy,” freshman Aza Reiskin said. “It was a lot less formal due to the fact that we got Bailey from a farm, but all we had to do was get her license and necessary vaccinations.”

The demand accelerated substantially since the pandemic hit the Bay Area in January, with an estimated average of over 300 applications per one puppy at some agencies, according to Emily Verna, President of Furry Friends Rescue

“Since the end of February, we have been 10 times busier with the rescue of dogs, puppies, cats and kittens from shelters,” said Krista Maloney, Communications and Community Engagement Manager at San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. “As people are home or working from home, we are getting 10 times more adoption applications.” 

The surge in interest to become a pet owner has caused some prospective new owners to be unsuccessful in their pursuit to take in a new animal during this time, according to theology teacher Clinton Hackenburg. 

“I applied to adopt maybe between 10 and 15 dogs since March and none of them have worked out due to such high demand,” Hackenburg said. “I’ve been looking for mostly small dogs because I have limited room but because I haven’t been able to successfully adopt any, I am shifting to looking at more medium sized dogs.”

As long days in home isolation may stir up feelings of seclusion, hopeful pet guardians cite the pandemic as the inspiration for beginning the adoption process.

“I don’t think I would have been so adamant to adopt a dog if it hadn’t been for this pandemic,” Hackenburg said. “Once we were sheltered in place at home, I looked pretty much everyday at adoption centers because when you’re sitting at home all day it can get boring and lonely.”

While the initial application process remains the same, the pandemic forced safety modifications to be made to steps requiring person-to-person contact, such as handoff to a new owner. 

“We first screen for a match and do a virtual meet or home visit,” Verna said. “We then meet in person outside for the adoption while being extra careful with COVID-19 protection: we all wear masks, some wear eye covers, and we sanitize everything.”

Though the pandemic has raised feelings of isolation and loneliness for many, newly adopted pets provide companionship and happiness and boost business for locally owned pet stores struggling to make ends meet during this time. 

“The demand is unprecedented,” Maloney said. “People have more time to spend with animals right now and are looking for the comfort and unconditional love that a pet can provide.”