Pet stores see large increase in adoptions during pandemic

July 30, 2020

The Meyers family was supposed to grow by one in April, but the new addition was delayed.

But while COVID-19 prevented the family from visiting pet stores and shelters in search of their new dog, they learned about a rescued goldendoodle in search of a home.

Granger joined the family a few weeks later and was an instant fit, said mom Lindsey Meyers.

“Granger’s brought a lot of love and joy to us,” Meyers said. “He’s a very laid-back dog and a good personality fit for us.”

He also has provided companionship for her sons and a reason to stay active with daily walks, she added.

Pet owners across the Sioux Falls area showed similar enthusiasm for adding a furry, scaly or feathery friend in recent months. The effect was felt at area pet stores, which are reporting big increases in pet adoptions and pet supply sales.

“During the quarantine, it literally felt like Black Friday every day,” said Lance Butler, store leader at PetSmart at Dawley Farm Village.

“We were busier than we had been since we opened, and it really hasn’t slowed down that much. We continue to just put up incredible numbers as far as the sales. I think it’s because of the staff that we have, the knowledge that they have. We’re able to help all the people that added the new family members over these last four or five months.”

Mini-Critters store manager Ryan Oaks confirmed a similar phenomenon, as he said demand has increased immensely in the past few months — bolstered perhaps in part by government checks allowing people to buy a more expensive or exotic pet than they might have otherwise.

While puppies tend to sell fast, Oaks controls how many animals he buys and said he takes on only as many as he can safely handle. 

“I did not buy more because the demand was higher,” he said. “I operate on a standpoint that I need to take care of the animal first.”

Those that do come into Mini-Critters tend to sell fast, a trend that also extends to smaller animals such as hamsters, guinea pigs, snakes and fish.

“When you have any animal that you are 100 percent in charge of its care and husbandry, there’s a bond there automatically,” Oaks said.

“A lot of people say to me ‘But you can’t have the same bond that you have with a snake that you have with a dog.’ Maybe you can’t, and I’ll be honest with you, I probably wouldn’t. But at the same token, there are people that, that is their best friend, almost. To be able to share your life with (an) animal for five, 10, 15, 20 years, sometimes more, they are integrated into your life in a way that I don’t know if any of us really even know how much of an impact they can have.”

The pandemic has brought a few negatives to these pet businesses in Sioux Falls as well. Oaks said Mini-Critters’ pet hotel has been almost completely stagnant the past few months, as fewer people are traveling. And increased demand for pet supplies has led to periods of empty shelves for PetSmart because of delayed shipments.

Increased adoptions have allowed PetSmart to use this time to help out animals in need, as partnerships through the Sioux Falls Area Humane Society and All Cats Rescue have led to more than 150 pet adoptions in the past few months.

In his five years at PetSmart, Butler said he has heard many stories from customers on how pets have helped change their lives for the better.

“All pets are emotional therapy,” Butler said. “PetSmart’s vision is that we love pets and we believe pets make us better people. And that couldn’t be any more true. My family and I, we have six (pets) at home, and that’s a lot of legs running around, and we can’t imagine life without them. And it’s when you’re feeling down, a dog, cat, even a snake or a bearded dragon, any of them can really lift your spirits up, and it gives you purpose. It gives you something to look forward to every day and a life to care for and one that cares for you.”

Oaks said he hopes pets that are adopted at his store can help bring happiness to people during an uncertain time.

“For those of us that are able to share our lives with a pet of some sort,” Oaks said, “to have that in this time where depression is running extremely high, people are struggling emotionally, financially or physically, and for that animal to be by your side and be part of your life is worth every penny.”

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Pet stores see large increase in adoptions during pandemic

“It literally felt like Black Friday every day.” The pandemic is creating new pet parents and leading to big demand at pet shops.

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