How COVID-19 has accelerated a 20-year surge in demand for pets

The COVID-19 pandemic is driving up demand for pets. “The truth is COVID accelerated, what's been a 20-year surge in demand for pets, particularly dogs,” Mark Cushing, CEO of the Animal Policy Group and author of “Pet Nation: The Love Affair That Changed America,” told Yahoo Finance’s “On the Move.”

“There are pockets in the Deep South, Lower Midwest and Southwest where shelters are full of animals,” Cushing says. But in the Greater New York area, “Most shelters are out of dogs by noon on Saturday. If you're looking for a dog you better get there on Thursday or Friday,” he says. “Shelters supply about 25% of all dogs annually, so the issue isn't the fact that shelters are chock full when people don't want a shelter puppy; the issue is there just aren't enough dogs.”

“The shortage is forcing us to go overseas to some pretty rough neighborhoods to supply needs,” he said.

But what happens when new pet owners return to offices post-pandemic? Cushing sees it as a plus for the economy. “It’s going to be a great opportunity for people to take care of dogs, dog walkers, which in Manhattan can be a very lucrative profession. You'll see five Afghans walking down the street with a dog handler. You know, they're not doing that for 10 bucks an hour.”

Cushing says there are simple things that people can do to help their pets transition to that change when it happens so they don’t feel abandoned.

“Honestly, just prepare. If you're literally with your dog or cat all day long, just prepare before you go back,” he says. Cushing says some pet owners are looking for additional pets to be companions for their current pets when they return to their offices. However, he says, they might not be able to find them.

Jack Russell Terrier dog with red leash
Jack Russell Terrier dog with red leash

Pamela Mitchell is a producer at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @pamelamitchell.

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