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Pandemic prompts big demand for four-legged friends

Published on

Cathy Dobson

The adoption rate for dogs and cats at the Sarnia animal shelter has soared as residents seek out four-legged companionship during the pandemic.

“I hate to put it this way, but COVID-19 may be the best thing that ever happened to a cat,” says Donna Pyette, executive director at the Sarnia & District Humane Society.

Cats and dog are adopted out almost as quickly as they arrive, she said.

“We barely keep any for any length of time. They are going to single people, couples and families. It’s nice to see a lot are first-time pet owners or people rediscovering how quickly pets become part of the family.”

Prior to the pandemic, it was common for un-adopted animals to be transferred to shelters in other jurisdictions after several months. That hasn’t happened since last March, Pyette said.

Cat adoptions, in particular, have jumped sharply. The shelter generally takes in about 2,000 a year. While that number has held steady, few stay at the shelter for months as they did before.

Of the 1,747 cats that arrived between March and December 2020, 1,581 were adopted.  Others were reclaimed by their owners, and some were sick or dead on arrival.

Adopting out 10 cats in one day is not uncommon, said Pyette.

“That’s definitely high. People want company. Many say they haven’t had a pet before and find taking a cat is easiest.

“Cats have a reputation for being loners but we hear back from so many people about how nice a pet a cat makes.

“The pandemic has really given cats a whole new lease on life.”

Pyette said 623 dogs arrived at the shelter in the last 10 months of 2020, and 436 were adopted, a 29% increase from the same period of 2019.

Most of the rest were reclaimed by owners and a small number were euthanized.

“It’s great to see all these adoptions,” Pyette said. “People are giving us feedback and saying their new cat or dog has brought so much love and fun to their home.

“We’ve solved our stray problem.”

Pyette is concerned about the possible impact on dogs when isolating owners return to workplaces and schools.

Shelter staff urges adopting families to consider their schedules, and encourage them to isolate pets for a period each day to help prevent separation anxiety when life returns to normal.

“Our biggest fear is that we’ll be swamped with dogs with high anxiety after the pandemic because owners don’t understand what to do,” Pyette said.

Currently, about 50 cats and two or three dogs are available for adoption at the Sarnia & District Humane Society. They can be viewed online at or on the shelter’s Facebook page.

The shelter is closed to the public.  Appointments are required for adoptions or surrenders during the lockdown.

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