Despite reports of overflowing shelters around the country, most local pets adopted during the pandemic remain with their families

While there isn't a glut of returned animals at local shelters, there are always animals in need of homes.

A tiny 10-week-old kitten named “Kevin,” a former MSPCA resident. Suzanne Kreiter/Globe staff

As COVID-19 hit in early 2020 and the lockdown went into effect, many people decided to share their time in isolation with a furry companion.

One in five households, or about 23 million, adopted a dog or cat during the pandemic, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, or ASPCA.

The organization said that the vast majority of these households “despite alarmist headlines” still have that pet in the home — 90 percent for dogs and 85 percent for cats.

According to a report from Shelter Animals Count, an independent nonprofit that collects shelter statistics:

  • 2021 saw only a .56 percent (less than 1%) increase in intake over 2020.
  • From 2019 to 2021, there was a nearly a 25 percent drop in intakes.
  • Owner surrenders — pets given up by their owners to animal shelters — are down 23 percent in 2021 from 2019.
  • In 2019, 53 percent of shelter pets were adopted, and in 2021 that has increased to almost 58 percent.

Michael Keiley, the director of Adoption Centers and Programs at the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals or MSPCA, said things at the organization’s three shelters are getting back to normal.


During the pandemic, surrenders were down and adoptions skyrocketed. In 2021, surrenders are still below 2019 levels. He’s noticed no major influx of pets adopted during the pandemic, though he acknowledges that shelters in other parts of the country say they have experienced this.

“People are still very interested in adopting,” said Keiley, who also serves as the executive director of the Northeast Animal Shelter in Salem.

While there isn’t a glut of returned animals at local shelters, there are always animals in need of homes.

Those interested in adoption from the MSPCA can check out the available animals online and visit the shelters by appointment.

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