Houston Hasn’t Seen the Pet Adoption Boom During the Pandemic

Wolfie was adopted from Harris County Pets
Wolfie was adopted from Harris County Pets Photo by Lynda Rouner
The quarantine resulting from COVID-19 has led to all kinds of new activities for the housebound, everything from that sourdough bread-making craze to people literally emptying out the exercise equipment stock of the nation. People also adopted pets. Lots of pets.

People stuck at home decided that they could use a new four-legged companion. There were shortages at shelters all across the country as people starved for affection and physical interaction tried to bring home cats and dogs. Some shelters saw their adoption rates jump nearly 40 percent.

Houston, for some reason, didn’t. Whether it's because shelters had to shut down for a while or limited the number of guests or for any other reasons, the pet boom appears to have passed us by.

Eddie Miranda, public information officer for Harris County Pets, says that they haven’t seen a massive surge in inquiries or, thankfully, in surrenders either from people who might have gotten an animal on an impulse and later regretted it.

“Our adoption rate has actually been pretty steady compared to last year,” he says.

Miranda directed us to Harris County Pets' recently released statistics for 2020. Adoptions from the county actually went down, though Miranda credits some of that to the restrictions the shelter has put in place to reduce spread of the coronavirus keeping some people away. In 2020, 5,752 cats and dogs were adopted compared to 6,101 the previous year.

If you’re worried that means more puppies and kitties were euthanized at the county shelter, take heart. Harris County Pets has increased its  live release rate from 94.2 percent to 98.8 percent, meaning that virtually every animal leaves the shelter alive. These include returns of pets to owners as well as finding space for the animals in other facilities. According to the Washington Post article linked above, a great many shelters are importing animals from other states, including Texas, and Harris County Pets moved 5,067 pets to other facilities last year.

In my house we have a saying: The world is on fire so let’s get a cat. That is the story of how I wound up with five cats, including my newest addition seen above, a regal Manx named Wolfie. He was adopted from Harris County Pets, where the COVID protocols are indeed pretty intense and involved standing outside for a long time on one of Houston’s rare frigid days. It’s easy to see why the additional hoops might make a few people less likely to adopt right at this second despite the organization’s low fees and fairly easy to navigate procedures.

Pet lovers can also take comfort in the fact that despite the lower adoption rate the euthanization rate has also plummeted. Only 161 animals were put down last year, including just two healthy ones. In 2019, it was almost ten times as many. Puppies and kitties are generally not sitting at the shelter with the death clock ticking anymore. It’s still be a good time to bring a pet home, though. I can tell you from personal experience that it’s made the pandemic a little less bleak.
KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Jef Rouner is a contributing writer who covers politics, pop culture, social justice, video games, and online behavior. He is often a professional annoyance to the ignorant and hurtful.
Contact: Jef Rouner