During the Pandemic, People Sought Comfort with Pets

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A child looks at a cat through the window of the San Dimas Grain Co. on Bonita Avenue in San Dimas. The community grain store and pet shop has seen the number of pet adoptions increase since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo: Isabel Ebiner

By Cindy Arora

At San Dimas Grain Co., one can often find people pressed against the big windows facing Bonita Avenue, watching kittens nap or puppies tumbling over one another. 

For the community grain store and pet shop, adoptions have always been brisk, but when COVID-19 sent people to shelter-in-place, the number of people taking home a furry friend soared. 

“It’s always super popular, just not in comparison to now. It has been insane,” said Cameron Castle, the son of San Dimas Grain’s owner. “We can’t keep any of them. People are pretty much waiting in the morning, before we open, when they know new animals are going to be here.” 

In order to keep up with the influx of pet adoptions, the grain shop has stocked up on pet carriers, dog houses and cat trees and also updates its social media accounts with videos of the new animals that have arrived at the shop. 

At the Inland Valley Humane Society in Pomona, Director of Community Outreach Melissa Matherly has seen an increase in adoptions as people turn to pets during the pandemic. 

“I do think people are looking for companionship during the pandemic … I know I have turned to my own pet,” Matherly said. “Since people couldn’t leave their homes, they decided to adopt a little friend. And we’ve been adopting them at a rapid pace.” 

The private, non-profit, full-access animal shelter has made its mission to care for all animals in the community and to ensure that every animal that arrives at its doorstep has a place to stay until it finds a forever home. 

During the pandemic, small dogs and kittens were adopted as soon as their photos were posted on the shelter’s website. Even as kitten season began to start in February, a usual busy season for the animal shelter, the shelter found itself with very few kittens available. 

“I guess it’s a good problem to have because it means they are all finding homes,” said Matherly. “With pets, there is no judgement. They sit with you. They are your coworker. When you come home, they are waiting for you. Pets are a bright spot for people.”

While small lap dogs and cats have found homes during the pandemic, the animal shelter is still looking for homes for its large breed dogs that are not always easy to adopt. For the next few months, the shelter is waiving adoption fees and is hopeful people’s desire to bring home a pet will extend to larger breeds.  

“We are really trying to find them homes. Any large breed dog, 45 pounds and up, a lot of pit bulls, husky mixes, Labradors … It’s not as easy for them to get adopted,” Matherly said. 

Through spring, the animal shelter will host a number of events offering free adoptions and continue to offer a foster program for people who would like to open their homes to an animal. 

The use of emotional support animals (ESA) has long been known as a successful way to help ease anxiety, depression and other mental health conditions.  

According to the American Pet Products Association, in its latest “COVID-19 Pulse Study,” 11.3 million U.S. households have gotten a new pet during the pandemic. 

The study, published in September 2020, interviewed 2,000 people and found three out of four pet owners said that spending time with their dog, cat or any other animal species helps reduce stress and increase a sense of well-being during COVID-19. 

La Verne resident Suzanne Evans has been searching for a kitten to add to her family of two kids and a dog. They recently put down one of their family dogs, and she said they had agreed a kitten would be a welcome addition to their home – especially during this time. 

But the process has not  been an easy one. 

“It has been an interesting process. There are so many phenomenal rescues that foster animals, but you have to fill out paperwork, and they want to come inspect your home … which is fine, but with COVID, it now adds an extra layer,” Evans said. “So, between Petfinder, Adopt-a-Pet, Nextdoor, and Facebook, we should find a kitten soon. It’s all about timing.” 

“My kids haven’t had the experience of having a little 8-week kitten, I’d like for them to see that … They’ve missed so much this year. We just want to bring something home that is joyful.”


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