How The Human Condition Erased 10 Years of Adoptions

By Sean-Patrick M. Hillman

The pandemic changed so much for so many. Especially for the most vulnerable, the voiceless--our furrever friends. During the shutdowns of COVID-19, the animal rescue and advocacy communities’ dreams of empty shelters and rescues came to fruition.

Before the pandemic, animal advocates (yours indeed included) spent over a decade fighting to increase adoption rates at shelters and rescues. And we largely succeeded with adoption records being broken every year. Then COVID-19 hit. We all thought a miracle happened: every shelter and rescue in the country reported record adoption rates as people sought companionship during their forced stays at home.

Whether it was kittens, cats, puppies, dogs, or rabbits, virtually every facility in the country was met with deafening silence as their populations went to what everyone thought were loving and responsible homes. Then, the human condition reared its ugly head. 

Once the pandemic was over and people began returning to their desks, they also returned their pets to the shelter or rescue they came from. Yes, you read that correctly. Humans, who claim to be caring, return animals to shelters and rescues as if they are returning a Gucci bag that no longer works with their style. Why? According to multiple sources, it was because many felt bad leaving their dog or cat alone when they returned to work. Um, are we kidding? So, these heartless hypocrites feel bad leaving them alone…what about feeling bad that they are going to be euthanized?

I have had pets my entire life. Historically, I have always had a very chaotic and packed schedule with my various business and social commitments. That never precluded me from having any pets. Yes, dogs require more time, energy, and resources than cats. I’ve had both. You figure it out like you would with a child. This isn’t rocket science. All it takes is a heart, some initiative, and creativity.  

An animal is not an accessory. They are, in fact, sentient beings—a life—regardless of what the legal hypocrites in our world believe: they are property. When you adopt a pet, you take responsibility for a life, just like when you have or adopt a child. You take responsibility for that life.

To illustrate my point, let’s role play for a second here. Let’s say that you are a dog that finds yourself in a shelter in a 10 x10 cage. Alone. Your only regular interaction is with a volunteer who walks you maybe twice daily and someone who puts a food bowl in your cage. You meet many humans excited to see you, which gets you excited and happy, but they pass you by and don’t adopt. That can lead to emotional and mental fatigue. Then, after being “incarcerated” for over a month, you finally strike gold, and a couple takes you home with them.  

They play with you, scratch you, feed you, love you, and keep you warm and healthy. You sleep in bed with them at night. In other words, you believe that these humans are now your pack, your family.  

Bear in mind, on average, it takes roughly three months for an adopted dog to feel completely comfortable in their new home. For the sake of this story, let’s say the adoption took place in December of 2021. By the Spring of 2023, 18 months later, the pandemic was over. That is when many people began returning to the office or resuming their pre-pandemic routines. Because of the return to work and not wanting to pay for daycare or a walker, your family has decided to surrender you. You are returned to the same cage you were in almost two years prior. Alone. About to be euthanized. How would you feel?  

Folks, I have been a student of pop culture and the human condition my entire life. I have seen some of the most unique and wonderful things happen while witnessing some of the worst atrocities. Yet, those atrocities seem so insignificant in the face of an animal being ripped from the home they’ve come to love and trust back into a cold and lonely prison cell.  

For what that’s worth these days, have some humanity and help the animal rescue community today. I highly recommend donating to, volunteering for, or adopting from Best Friends Animal Society (  

Stay pawesome!