Opinion | Pick your pups well for quarantine companionship

With so many people looking to adopt pets during quarantine, it’s important to make sure that you’re not accidentally funding abusive behaviors.

Signe Nettum, Opinions Columnist

I lost my childhood dog this past November. Her name was Roomer and she was a 14-year-old Yorkie. While my little sister and I wanted to continue having a dog in our lives after her death, our parents said no. That it was too soon, and I would not be there to take care of a dog for most of the first year.

Well, I guess COVID-19 has a silver lining for me. In May, my family acquired two little Yorkie puppies to keep us company during the quarantine and after. To our surprise, they were Roomer’s great-nieces. Yes, we went through a breeder rather than adoption — while I do not need to explain myself, we required non-shedding, small dogs that were good with older family members.

People have valid reasons to buy, rather than adopt, though the latter is preferable. Even with COVID-19 going around, and the urge to adopt pets rising, we still did our research into specific breeders with correct credentials. We even went the extra mile in finding the same breeder as before, even though she had moved another hour up north further than before.

Thanks to COVID-19 and the urge to adopt or use breeders, there has been a rise in adoption and breeder scams. The Better Business Bureau received 371 complaints of pet-related fraud in April, a more than 200 percent increase from the same month a year earlier. No matter the crisis, there are people who will try to profit off of other people.

So, here is a guideline on what to do if you’re looking for a pet during a pandemic. The first basic step is to do your research. A simple search of pet adoptions in or near Iowa City yields numerous organizations and websites. If you are looking for a dog with specific traits, breeders are another way to find dogs.

There is a phrase called “Adopt. Don’t shop” in relation to puppy breeders. It means to go through the adoption process rather than search for a breeder.

I disagree with the phrase, as long as you do your duty as a future pet owner and research, research, research. Check a breeder’s credentials, don’t buy a pet without seeing it in person — if you can manage it. Communicate with the breeder often. Research on what pets need as babies, and make sure that the breeder is not tagging on additional costs.

Even though I own dogs that came from a breeder, I am still a strong advocate for adoption centers, like the Humane Society, who continuously updates their website during COVID-19. They are still open for adoption, just with a few more rules to keep patrons and workers safe. The Wisconsin Humane Society adopted out 159 pets in just five days. This year, the ASPCA saw a nearly 70 percent increase in animals going to foster care compared to the same period last year.

So, if you are looking for a furry friend — for a longer time than COVID-19, mind you — in the end, do your research. No matter how you go about finding a pet, adopt or breeder, give your future family member the benefit of going the extra mile of researching their origins.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.