I get it—after months of lockdowns and social distancing, you’re stuck at home and maybe thinking that getting a dog would be a fun way to pass the time, get outside and walk more frequently, and cuddle up. But if you’re contemplating adopting a dog during the COVID-19 pandemic, the first question you should ask yourself is this: Are you sure you’re ready to provide emotional and financial care for the next decade (or longer)? If you answered yes, do you know your next step? It’s important to give the idea careful consideration, rather than rushing out to adopt an animal on a whim.
I just adopted my lovely dog, Mae, from an animal shelter, and I’ve compiled all the details you need to know in order to adopt! As with many other aspects of life, CDC guidelines, state closures, and resources in short supply have made adoption during the pandemic a different process than before, but it’s still easy to find your new best friend.
5 Things to Consider Before Adopting a Dog During the COVID-19 Pandemic
1. Know your type.
Before you even start looking for a dog, take some time to think about your lifestyle, both before and during COVID-19, and consider how a dog would fit in. If you live with family members, roommates, or others, what part would they play in the dog’s life?
Maybe you get up every morning at 5 a.m. and go running, so an active dog would be a good match. Or maybe you’re in a small space with five other people who spend their weekends walking around the neighborhood and binge-watching Netflix, so a middle-aged chill dog would be more your speed.
Now that you know your “type,” you can head to animal shelters, rescue groups, and online adoption sites with your ideal dog in mind.
2. Petfinder is your new favorite app.
Stopping by your local open-admission animal shelter is the best way to meet your future dog, but if it’s currently closed to walk-ins, download the Petfinder app right now. Trust me. This database will lead you to all the homeless animals in your area, and you can sort by size, age, breed, and more, which makes finding a match as easy as clicking a few buttons.
When I was searching for a dog, I was looking for middle-aged, medium-size dogs in my area and read the short bios to find ones who aligned with my lifestyle. I quickly learned from my Petfinder search that there were dozens to choose from, so I started contacting animal shelters and rescue groups about individual dogs.
3. Patience, patience, patience.
I noticed that there were quite a few other folks in my area looking for middle-aged, medium-size dogs. One of the only good things about the pandemic is that more people are looking to adopt, but this may mean that a dog you have your heart set on could be adopted before you get a chance to meet. But guess what? That’s actually good news! They needed a home, and now you get to help another animal in need.
Don’t feel let down if you don’t adopt the first dog you apply for—just keep trying. Having a dog in your life is a decades-long commitment, so what’s the big deal if you have to wait a few weeks or even a few months to ensure that you’re making the best decision?
4. Meeting is a crucial step.
You’ve heard it a thousand times by now: Stay 6 feet away from others, wear a mask, and use soap and hand sanitizer liberally (preferably cruelty-free). So what does this mean when it comes to meeting dogs with adoption counselors? In some cases, animal shelters aren’t even allowing adopters to meet dogs before taking them home. But this is a bad idea. Caring for a dog is long-term commitment, and you want to make sure that you (and any other humans or animals in your household) get along with a new dog before committing.
5. The pandemic will eventually end.
It could take months or even years, but eventually, hopefully, lockdowns and social distancing will come to an end. You may go back to the office, back to planning that weeks-long overseas trip, or back to hitting the club every weekend. If your life before COVID-19 had you away from home for much of the day or night (or much of the month), then adopting a dog really isn’t a very good idea.
Here are some other pro tips:
- Avoid rescue groups that speak poorly of socially conscious animal shelters, which offer refuge to every animal in need, including unadoptable or suffering ones for whom euthanasia is the kindest option.
- Remember: The dog you meet in an animal shelter might be completely different a year from now, after spending some time with you. Over time, you’ll grow closer and closer. If you’re worried that a dog doesn’t seem to warm up to you immediately, just be patient—love grows!
Seventy million homeless animals are struggling to survive on the streets on any given day in the U.S., so the only ethical way to bring an animal into your life is to adopt one (not buy one). Why? Every time someone buys a puppy—whether from a breeder, a pet store, neighbors, someone on Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist, or a puppy mill—a dog in an animal shelter loses a chance at finding a home. Millions of animals must be euthanized every single year because of this, so please don’t be one more misinformed individual contributing to the homeless-animal crisis.
If you’ve decided that you’re ready to welcome a dog into your life as a companion during the COVID-19 pandemic—or if you make the decision at any other time—always adopt and never buy. Encourage your friends, family, and social media followers to do the same.
Written by Ashley Frohnert, PETA Associate Director of Social Media