With more than a month to go, many have already written off 2020 as a “cursed year.” Every personal misfortune, lost bet and stubbed toe, just added evidence that this cycle around the sun must be inherently rotten. But while 2020 has definitely broken some records, not all were bad. It’s also been one of the best years in memory for pet adoptions nationwide. Thanks to COVID shut downs, people flocked in record numbers to their local animal shelters for a new furry friend to keep them company.
Brett Tyler, 51, is one such adopter. A painter by trade, his gruff, Upstate New York voice belies a soft spot for animals. After moving down to Florida from Saratoga Springs four years ago, and more recently to Safety Harbor, his Pomeranian Casey passed away in July. By October, he and his girlfriend were ready to adopt two new kittens: A tuxedo named Stanley, after the Lightning’s recent Stanley Cup win, and a tortoiseshell, Stella, named after a grandmother.
“I just think it’s better to get two, you know? They keep each other company, they have fun, and they’re entertaining!” Tyler said. “We sit here and watch and they wrestle around and they run around – they’re over here, they’re over there, they’re in their kitty condo… they’re fun to watch.”
Tyler adopted the pair at Save Our Strays animal shelter in Safety Harbor, which, by the end of October, had adopted out 93 more cats than they did by the same time in 2019.
Friends of Strays in St. Pete also saw a spike, with 148 pet adoptions in the month of July alone, compared to just 100 during the same month of 2019. For most of the summer, through to September, animals that arrived were usually adopted after just one or two days, according to Communications Manager Holly Clare.
“It was like the ‘Hunger Games,’” she said, “with people trying to get these dogs out the fastest.”
The rush began in March, when Friends of Strays announced that they would have to close down for over a month due to COVID-19. In 72 hours, people swarmed and adopted 53 animals, leaving the shelter totally empty during its six weeks of closure.
While dogs may be man’s best friend, cats won the year in adoptions. At the Pet Pal Animal Shelter in St. Pete, people adopted 227 cats between March and November, compared to just 160 in the same period of 2019, a 42% increase. Dogs, meanwhile, had a 9% decrease in adoptions compared to the same period of last year.
“I love dogs too, but cats are less maintenance,” said Tyler. “Cats and dogs, they lower your anxiety, you know? You come home, they jump up on your lap, you pet ‘em – they just bring comfort and relaxation to you.”