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Coronavirus In Ohio: More Families Adopting Pets To Fill Dog Days Of Quarantine

Kyle Schmitz adopted a dog named Dexter after losing his medical school placement during the coronavirus pandemic.
Courtesy of Kyle Schmitz
Kyle Schmitz adopted a dog named Dexter after losing his medical school placement during the coronavirus pandemic.

At the end of a coronavirus press conference earlier this month, Gov. Mike DeWine was grilled by a Dayton Daily News journalist.

“In reporting, you always want to get the dog’s name,” asked reporter Laura Bischoff. “Can you tell me the dog’s name? Your new puppy?”

DeWine and his wife Fran shared a look and a laugh before he took the microphone. “Well, we haven’t quite gotten there yet," DeWine replied, "but we’re thinking Dolly.”

Like so many across Ohio, DeWine's family is adopting a pet during the state's stay-at-home order. While many shelters have temporarily closed their doors in an effort to encourage social distancing, those that stayed open have seen demand skyrocket during the pandemic.

The Franklin County Dog Shelter, for instance, has seen adoption inquiries increase by 90%.

“There’s only so much cleaning you can do, there’s only so many new recipes you can learn,” says Kaye Dickson. “And it’s a great time to really spend the time needed to introduce a dog to your family.”

Dickson says they typically have 300-350 dogs in their shelter. Now, that number is down to around 60, with only 10 available for adoption.

Part of that is attributable to a push by the shelter to get dogs into foster homes during the COVID-19 crisis. But Dickson points out that half of those dogs have already been adopted by the families that were supposed to be temporary.

Beyond filling a sudden abundance of free time, Columbus Humane CEO Rachel Finney says this is a way for people to feel productive.

“They want to be able to do something to help the community, to help one another, and it’s hard to come up with a list of those things when we’re stuck at home," Finney says. "People automatically think about, ‘Oh I could foster a pet, I could adopt a pet, that’s something I could do to make our community situation better.’”

Franklin County Dog Shelter says that it's seen a 90% increase in adoption requests since the stay-at-home order went into effect.
Credit Ryan Hitchcock / WOSU
Franklin County Dog Shelter says that it's seen a 90% increase in adoption inquiries since the stay-at-home order went into effect.

Kyle Schmitz wanted a dog for years, but his third year of medical school, with 10 hour rotations every day, didn’t seem like the ideal time.

But after hospitals sent Schmitz and his fellow students home, he decided to adopt a 3-month-old Australian shepherd-border collie named Dexter.

“The first couple weeks, I was just sitting at home, kinda feeling guilty like I wasn’t helping out, and you know felt a little bit helpless, and I was constantly worried about things going on in the world,” Schmitz says. “But since I adopted him, it’s like a 24/7 job basically, just to keep him entertained.”

Schmitz is quick to point out that he had wanted a dog for a while.

“If you were already looking to get a dog and you just didn’t have a great opportunity to train them," he says. "But it’s not such a great idea if you’re looking for a temporary companion."

Dickson admits that she expects a certain number of the dogs that have been adopted to return to the shelter when the pandemic ends. But she doesn’t see that as a bad thing.

“It’s still better than them sitting here the whole entire time without proper enrichment and no socialization. So even if we find two different families, that’s OK,” she says. “Trust me, the dog will adapt and fall in love with its second home just as much as he did the first.”

Finney doesn’t believe that will happen with the majority of cases. Still, she admits the transition back to so-called "regular life" will be tough on some pets who have gotten used to their owners’ undivided attention.

“It’s not like an alarm is going to go off and everyone’s going to decide that their pet’s not a good fit today,” she says. “But we’re going to see an increase in those type of problem behaviors: dogs breaking out of crates, or anxious behaviors, destruction, chewing shoes, that kind of thing.

The far bigger concern, she says, is the financial impact of the crisis on pet owners.

“We got a donation of 24 pallets of pet food and supplies," she says. "We put a notice out to our community that said, 'If you need help, please let us know,' and about 48 hours, we got 500 requests. Easily more than the food we had available.”

She anticipates the need for food, supplies, and veterinary care will only increase as the pandemic continues. Columbus Humane, Franklin County Dog Shelter, and almost every other pet shelter in Central Ohio are taking donations to handle that demand.

Do you have questions about the coronavirus in Ohio? Ask below as part of our Curious Cbus series.


Clare Roth was former All Things Considered Host for 89.7 NPR News. She joined WOSU in February of 2017. After attending the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, she returned to her native Iowa as a producer for Iowa Public Radio.