'Pandemic puppies': Pet industry overrun with increase in new owners

Riverview resident Scot Hill said 2020 was the perfect time to expand his family, but not in the way you might be thinking.

"Without the pandemic we never would have gotten the girls, they are our pandemic puppies, man," said Hill.

Hill's a chef, and like millions of others in the service industry, the pandemic brought on some serious life changes.

"We finally had the opportunity to get a dog. I was a restaurant owner and just never had a second to have a dog," he recalled.

Photo: Dog drinking water

One survey by the American Pet Products Association suggests as many as 300,000 American households added a pet in 2020. Two years later, all those new pets are putting stress on the pet industry. 

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At Colleen's Pet Grooming in Apollo Beach, the calls are non-stop. 

"I’m probably booked out six or seven weeks," said owner Jay Orlando. 

Photo: Dog getting groomed

It's a good problem to have according to the owner, but he feels for new residents in Hillsborough's booming south county area. 

"You move into the area, and you have a dog, and you call every dog groomer locally, and nobody is taking new customers. They can’t take them," he shared.

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The influx of pets has put added pressure on veterinarian offices too, an industry already struggling with staff shortages before the pandemic. 

"COVID just exacerbated everything," said American Veterinarian Medical Association President, Dr. Jose Arce.

He said it took months for offices to get caught up with the backlog of appointments postponed during the pandemic. 

"Those in emergency and specialty practices are particularly overwhelmed and short-staffed," Dr. Arce added.

Hill said when he looks back on the challenges the pandemic brought on, he'll always see the positives of pet ownership.

"Definitely a huge bright spot over the past couple years. I can’t imagine a time without the dogs now."