Whether people prefer dogs or cats, having pets around 24/7 for a year and a half can forge some powerful relationships.
"We see a lot of people asking for assistance and resources to make sure that they're doing everything correct to prepare their animal for them to go back to a working schedule," said Annette Ramirez, assistant general manager of Lifesaving with the Los Angeles Department of Animal Services.
While LA County Animal Care and Control has reported seeing a sharp rise recently in the number of dogs surrendered to shelters, especially in poorer communities, the LA Department of Animal Services has seen returns drop about 53% compared to pre-pandemic levels.
"The pandemic has allowed people to really create a very strong bond with their animal, so people are really looking for ways to keep that bond intact rather than just surrender their pet," Ramirez said.
She said separation anxiety is a real concern. In fact, the shelter held a virtual Q&A session last week to help owners start preparing their animals to be left alone.
"Go for a walk without your pet. Go to the grocery store or just get outside for a little while and come back a short time later and don't make it a big deal," she said.
"Don't automatically run to your dog and be like, 'Hey, I'm back home.'"
Other tips to help them cope:
- Give them a special goodbye stuffed toy when you leave, filled with their favorite treats.
- Create a safe, secure room or space for your dog while you are away.
- Consider adding a second furry family member to give them a friend, but make sure it's the right match.
Ramirez said the two most popular resources during the pandemic have been discounted for free spay and neuter vouchers and the pet food pantry for those struggling financially.
"We actually started doing the pet food pantry twice a month and saw such a high demand for it that we now issue food out every week," Ramirez said.
They are helping to nourish the bond between people and pets.