Four legs and a tale: Animal Placement Bureau helps ‘pandemic puppies’ find a home


Animal shelters and adoption centers everywhere are grappling with a wave of “pandemic puppies” — dogs drafted into service as companions for humans in the isolation of 2020. After a year and a half of constant companionship, the pups are a bit older, struggling with separation and, in many cases, given up for adoption as their human caregivers leave the house, get tired of them and go on with their lives. 

In 21 years of pet adoption work, Lisa Wallace, president of the Lansing-based Animal Placement Bureau, hasn’t seen anything like it.

“What I’m hearing from rescue partners in other states, and we’re just starting to see here, is — what happens when people return to work? Pandemic puppies have not been taught to be alone.”

Wallace, 54, has been volunteering at a lot of nonprofits since she was 12 years old, starting in a nursing home.

“APB has the most dedicated volunteers I’ve seen in all that time, but you can only stretch things and juggle things so far,” she said.

The bureau is in great need of foster humans, both short and long term — especially if they’re open to nurturing a troubled pet.

“We’ve always been willing to help dogs with medical needs and behavioral challenges, but that is now the predominant type of dog we’re being asked to take right now, rather than just a fraction,” Wallace said. “The dogs we’re being asked to help right now are dogs that need more help.”

Citing “skyrocketing rates of behavioral problems,” the Scientific American warned of “a generation of dogs whose acquisition during the pandemic is an unfolding welfare crisis.”

“People who are unemployed or underemployed because of the pandemic — those are the ones who just break my heart,” Wallace said. “They don’t want to give up their pets and they’re waiting until the last humanly possible minute to say, ‘OK, I can’t do this anymore.’”

The bureau also handles dogs with severe medical problems. A recent newcomer needed Level 4 surgery, for kidney stones.

“Our adoption fee is $250, so we have to do quite a bit of adoptions and quite a bit of fundraising to make up for some of the more significant cases we’ve had,” Wallace said. “We’re not going to stop. We’re still fundraising, still placing dogs wherever we can.”

The Animal Placement Bureau has been around almost 40 years. It started as the Animal Protection Bureau, fostering dogs, cats and horses, but now only handles dogs. (Cat rescues split off into another group and horse placement led to too many lawsuits.)

The foster-care-based, all-volunteer bureau isn’t saddled with the expense of a physical facility and employees, but event-based fundraising came to a virtual halt in 2020 and early 2021.

“Financial donations are the most important thing, but we also need things like dog food, dog treats, supplies like paper towels,” Wallace said.

The bureau resumed its in-person adoption events late this summer, but a hiatus of 18 months took a toll.

“After all this time, people don’t know where to find us,” Wallace said.

In-person adoption events are held at the Okemos Soldan’s on the second Sunday of the month and in south Lansing on the fourth Sunday.

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