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More people adopting pets during pandemic

Survey shows owners want to take pets to the office with them when they return to work.

NORFOLK, Va. — A new survey by Rover.com shows that people have been turning to pets to bring a spark back into their routines and their lives. 

There's actually been a surge in pet adoptions across the country including right here in Hampton Roads. You've probably seen them hop in and out of your Zoom sessions. 

Melissa Heard, Director of Animal Care & Adoption for the Norfolk SPCA said the agency has seen an increase in adoptions over the past year. 

"Because people are spending more time at home, it's a great time to adopt a pet and get them acclimated," she said.

Shanna Whitfield is a first-time pet owner who decided to adopt her dog Skye during the pandemic.

"I knew my son was going to go away for college and I knew I didn't want to be alone," Whitfield said, adding, "So yeah, it's really been great. She walks with me every morning, she keeps me company, she keeps me warm in the bed."  

Chandler Stout and his friends feel the same way about his dog Liza.

"I adopted my dog Liza just because she's been a good support animal to me and my house. Three of my roommates are on deployment right now and it's really good for them to look forward to seeing the dog when they come home," Stout explained.

But what happens when work-from-home ends and you have to head back into the office and leave Fluffy or Fido at home? Heard suggests stocking up on things to keep your pets busy while you're away.

"So Kong toys, puzzle feeders, that sort of good mental stimulation gives them something to do when you're not home and keeps them busy," Heard said.

She also suggests lining up care: "Doggie daycare is a great idea. Dog walkers to come over once for a potty break while you're at work are great."

A survey by Banfield Pet Hospital found that 57% of pet owners say they'll be most happy returning to work if they can bring their pets with them. Additionally, 71% of Gen Z'ers and 48% Millennials have or plan to ask their employer to start a pet-friendly policy. 

"Sometimes they hang out like if you have your own office, they hang out in your office with you. Sometimes they have an extra space or area to walk your dog, potty breaks, things like that. Everyone's different, but it doesn't hurt to check in with your employer to see if they're open to that idea," Heard explained.

Either way, the sooner you start working on a plan, the better it will be for you and your furry companion.

Heard adds the Norfolk SPCA and other shelters are there to help pet owners with training and other resources and there are still plenty of animals available for adoption.

If you find you just can't keep your pet when you return to work, the agency suggests you try to find a friend or family member to take it in. If not, reach out to your local shelter to inquire about their rehoming process.

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