Social Distancing Led to Run on Pet Adoptions

Every cloud has a silver lining.

One consequence of massive numbers of people sheltering in place in their homes for weeks on end that I certainly did not anticipate as that shelters are running out of dogs and cats for adoption.

Bloomberg (“Newest Shortage in New York: The City Is Running Out of Dogs to Foster“):

[I]n the New York city area, the epicenter of the disease, there is suddenly a run on pets. At least of the adopted or fostered kind. Muddy Paws Rescue and Best Friends Animal Society are reporting shelters they work with are either all out of or almost out of cats and dogs after a surge in applications of as much as 10-fold in the past two weeks.

Ordered to shelter in place at home, and both a little bored and a lot anxious, New Yorkers apparently see the four-legged friends as way to calm frayed nerves. “For the moment we definitely don’t have any dogs left to match” with foster volunteers, said Anna Lai, the marketing director at Muddy Paws. “Which is a great problem to have.”

It also helps explain why shares of Chewy Inc. are soaring right now even as the stock market overall crashes. It’s up 7% this year, as customers hunker down and order online. The spike in volume has pushed delivery times to between seven and 10 days for most customers, according to the company’s website.


The run on pets seems to extend beyond New York, at least in disease hotspots. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said its Los Angeles office saw a 70% increase in animals going into foster care. And Best Friends said many of the shelters it partners with across the U.S. report the same phenomenon.


While the pickings are slim now, rescue organizations worry they’ll soon see the opposite problem — a rise in surrendered pets as many Americans lose their jobs. Shelters may be asked to take in more animals than they have room to house.

We adopted a new puppy from the local rescue the day after the local schools closed (initially for a month, now through the end of the school year). While it was a coincidence—we’d already made the appointment to visit the pooch at her foster home earlier in the week—it immediately occurred to me that the timing couldn’t have been better. Not only would a new puppy be a great distraction for the kids but it meant constant attention and supervision for the dog.

As to calming frayed nerves, it’s definitely a mixed bag. Watching Hildy play with the kids and other dogs has been great fun but crate training her hasn’t been great for sleep.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Bill says:

    Dear wife and I have one pet cat of our own. Misay is enough for us. As I predicted, Misay jumped in my lap not long after I got home last night.

    We do feed wild cats in our neighborhood. Evie aka Hoover because she can really eat alot, Tweety bird because she used to be able to get up to our 2nd floor apartment some how, Bully, Hobo, Yasim- that is misay backwards-, and Charcoal. Evie and Tweety are friendly, the rest keep their distance except at feeding time. With me isolated, Leonita does the feedings at 5:30 every morning. The only reason we’re still getting up early.

  2. mattbernius says:

    Congratz on the new pup — there must be more picture!

    crate training her hasn’t been great for sleep

    Definitely. Have you heard of the magic of frozen kongs (filled with a peanut butter and canned pumpkin mix)? They’re a life saver when you need a break and really help create crate value.

  3. James Joyner says:

    @mattbernius: Interesting. We’ll have to give that a try.

  4. mattbernius says:

    @James Joyner:
    We both have owned and fostered a lot of dogs, so they’re standard operating procedure for us and we usually have 4 or so in the freezer at all times.

    You can find lots of “recipes” out there. Honestly we find that a ~50/50 canned pumpkin and peanut butter mix is the best. Stuff the kong and be sure to freeze it (that makes it last longer — a dog will go through an unfrozen kong in a minute or two — a frozen one should last 10-20 minutes or so depending on dog). While you’re crate training, the dog can only get them in the crate (best case you always have the door closed… but in training situations you can leave the door open, but if the puppy tried to take the kong out of the crate you either take it away or reset into the crate).

    It also makes a great time-out (we used to refer to it as the “Lion King” – or more appropriately “Frozen” – for puppies).

    More details if you need them:

  5. Jen says:

    Hopefully many of these pups become “foster failures” and find permanent homes.

    It’s great for the pups to have this level of care, which hopefully will lead to secure, happy dogs.

    We adopted our current dog nine years ago this coming April. One or the other of us has worked from home the entire time, and I believe that is in part why we’ve never had an issue leaving her alone–zero behavior problems or separation anxiety when we leave.

    Congrats on the new addition, they are work but worth every second of it (IMHO)!

  6. Christopher Osborne says:

    @mattbernius: @mattbernius We both have owned and fostered a lot of dogs, so they’re standard operating procedure for us and we usually have 4 or so in the freezer at all times.

    I had to read this sentence twice….

  7. Neil Hudelson says:

    We rescue pit mixes–strongheaded breeds that take a lot of attention to properly train. Since I’m guessing doggie behavioral schools are not ‘essential businesses,’ I highly recommend this book for training tips and tricks:

  8. EddieInCA says:

    We have four rescues at my house. I’ve always had dogs. Can’t imagine life without at least two. Anything that gets more dogs out of pounds and shelters is a good thing, assuming they all don’t get dumped once this craziness ends.

  9. mattbernius says:

    @Christopher Osborne:

    I had to read this sentence twice….

    LOL… That’s brilliant (or really not brilliant construction on my part).

    Thank you for pointing that out.

  10. EddieInCA says:

    @Neil Hudelson:

    Neil –

    One of my rescues is 17 years old, and another one is 12. Both won’t last a year, sadly. My next will be a small blue nose pit, smaller the better. If you come across any of these, let me know here, and we can figure out how to connect. I want it to be a rescue, not come from a puppy mill.

  11. Gustopher says:

    I’m assuming that’s a picture of Hildy the new puppy up top, and not just a stock photo?


    My cat and I have been enjoying our new kitten, acquired before this all started, on December 7th, a day that will live in infamy. She’s a terror. But a delightful terror. And bigger than the cat.

  12. wr says:

    @mattbernius: “We both have owned and fostered a lot of dogs, so they’re standard operating procedure for us and we usually have 4 or so in the freezer at all times.”

    I don’t want to tell you how I misread that sentence… but if you assume the object stays the same in both phrases it should become clear.

    Ha –someone beat me to it!

  13. mattbernius says:

    Lol. Yeah, I really need to stop writing so conversationally.

    Especially ’round all of you professionals.

  14. Joe says:

    I have had my rescue (failed foster) for a year and half. My adult kids and their friends idolize her. She’s a pretty good dog.

    My picture here is of her predecessor, but I may have to update.

  15. Joe says:

    @Joe: Gravatar apparently works retroactively, so this is my current rescue dog and new avatar.

  16. Kari Q says:


    Have you heard of the magic of frozen kongs

    Seconding the miracle of frozen kongs. If you have a pet with weight issues, try mixing their food with the pumpkin instead of peanut butter. All our fosters seemed to come to us overweight.

  17. David in KC says:

    Have a hospice foster dog. Started out as an old dog foster in September 2016. Got transitioned to a medical hold while they went through diagnosis and initial treatment for Cushing’s, was about to go off medical hold when he went into congestive heart failure. That was in August of 2017, and he’s still kicking. Haven’t had a full nights sleep unless he’s staying with a back up foster parent.

    BTW, I foster and volunteer through a shelter run by Kansas City Pet Project, which some of you may have heard of the week after the Super Bowl.

  18. James Joyner says:


    Hildy with her kong

    They didn’t have canned pumpkin so I used canned sweet potato. She’s working it pretty good.