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No, People Are Not Returning Pandemic Dogs in Droves

“We will be watching this closely over the next several months,” Mr. San Filippo said. “Certainly we’ve been aware of this as a possibility since we began hearing about more people bringing pets home during the pandemic. But so far we haven’t seen any evidence of a corresponding increase in surrenders.”

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals also said in a statement there was no evidence of “an increase in owner surrenders or stray intakes” across the United States.

It said one reason was that shelters and rescue organizations “continue to have conversations with adopters to ensure they are making good matches and that pets match their adopters’ lifestyles, even when those owners return to a post-pandemic schedule.”

Monthly reports from PetPoint, a website that aggregates data from more than 1,100 animal welfare organizations in the United States, suggest that while shelters have experienced an increase in pets coming in, their numbers are merely returning to the levels reported before the pandemic.

In April, for example, 15,906 dogs were surrendered by their owners — an increase of nearly 80 percent over April 2020, according to PetPoint. But many shelters curtailed operations in April 2020, meaning fewer pets could be returned that month. And the numbers were still well below the 20,289 dogs that were surrendered in April 2019, before the coronavirus upended life and commerce.

The numbers also tell a more nuanced story about the rates of pandemic pet adoptions. Despite reports of waiting lists and long lines at shelters, adoptions were actually down in 2020, according to animal welfare groups. About 280,270 dogs were adopted in 2020, a roughly 19 percent decrease from the previous year, according to PetPoint. Cat adoptions fell by about 11 percent.

“Don’t be deceived by the fluffy puppies and cuddly kittens in the news,” Steve Zeidman wrote in a blog post on the PetPoint website. He added, in another post written with Todd Whittington, that “sensational” reports of pandemic pets being returned in large numbers are “completely untrue.”

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