Pet industry still inundated after pandemic puppy boom

SIOUX FALLS, SD (KELO) — It has been more than two years since the start of the pandemic, a time that has had a permanent impact on many lives. While some of those changes have been challenging, other additions since the pandemic have also added a lot of joy.

“She’s two years old, a little over two,” said Ann Van Stedum, a dog owner from Sioux Falls.

It’s an age of discovery that many pet owners understand.

“She is our little pandemic pup,” Van Stedum said.

Like many families, the Van Stedums decided to get a new puppy soon after the pandemic began.

“She was a very positive thing and gave the kids something to do and something they could do together,” Van Stedum said. “I have three teenagers… when they were in the house together all day every day, it can get tense. So it was a good thing for them.”

“It was amazing, everyone who asked really wanted a dog. It wasn’t a question of, oh, might I want a dog or what type do you have, it was, we want a dog now,” said Brittney Veurink, owner of Doodles and Dors.

During the 2020 pandemic puppy boom, dog breeders at KELOLAND were inundated with requests from all over the country.

“It was crazy, there was talk about the puppies we had and the next litter we were going to have,” Veurink said. “It was intense.”

There was so much demand that breeders of all sizes could charge almost anything for a puppy and still have people lining up on their waiting list.

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“We definitely made more money in 2020 than any other year, easily,” Veurink said.

The pandemic puppy boom has allowed Doodles and Dors, a small family-owned business in rural South Dakota, to expand its facility.

“In 2021 we ventured out to get a bigger, better building just to make the dogs feel more comfortable,” Veurink said.

While their breeding business remains strong, they say demand has definitely slowed since 2020.
“All of our puppies have found homes, but it’s been a bit slower,” Veurink said.

While the puppy boom may be slowing, the surge in new pets during the pandemic continues to have a huge impact on many animal industries.

“We probably get 10 to 25 calls from people asking if we’re accepting new clients,” said Kenydie Hyde of Glamor Paws Pet Grooming.

Dog groomers are some of the hardest job openings to find.

“We are booked for the rest of this year and have been since May 2021,” Hyde said.

“Since these puppies are all grown up and still here, I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s a week or two for a routine vaccination appointment,” said Dr. Sara Hoffer, a Sioux Falls veterinarian.

Finding a vet in KELOLAND has also become a challenge since the pandemic puppy boom.

“At the emergency vet clinic, I heard you could be sitting there for four hours before they see you,” Hoffer said.

Like groomers, many veterinarians have had to stop accepting new clients.

“We’re seeing new patients, but we’re seeing so many,” Hoffer said.

Dr. Sara Hoffer of the South Central Veterinary Clinic says she has almost tripled her client list since 2020, with many owners of pandemic puppies coming in with the same concerns.

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“Definitely some separation anxiety, their owners are back in the office and the dogs don’t know how to act when they’re home alone,” Hoffer said.

It’s one of the main reasons why the demand for dog daycare has also seen a huge increase in Sioux Falls.

“We have a long waiting list for our daycare, even after opening a second building,” said Allison Wyant of Paws Pet Resort. “We’ve talked to a lot of parents and clients who got their dog during the pandemic and just want a place for him to play and hang out during the day.”

Pandemic Puppies were also the inspiration behind the Puppy University program at Paws Pet Resort.

“Allowing a space where we can breed well-trained dogs has given parents and dogs confidence and just living well together,” Wyant said.

Proof that the pets added to so many families during the pandemic mean more than a morale boost in a lonely and challenging time.

“This is not a one or two year thing, this is not like getting to the end of the pandemic and then we’re done. This is a lifelong commitment to care for this animal,” said Wyant.

The Sioux Area Humane Society says many pandemic pet owners have taken that pledge seriously, as the number of pets surrendered hasn’t seen any major increase in the past two years.

“It’s definitely the best side effect of the pandemic,” Van Stedum said.

Through all the challenges of the past two years, these pets are a shining reminder of the good that has come from this unique moment in history. Now, even as teenagers, they continue to bring years of joy to the families they joined during the pandemic.

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“We love her madly,” Van Stedum said.

Veterinarians are preparing for the ongoing impacts of the pandemic puppies throughout their lives, medical care that will be in even greater demand as the puppies become seniors a decade or so from now.