AUSTIN (Austin Business Journal/KXAN) — Our non-digital lives can be pretty lonely these days.

After a day of burning through emails, Slack messages and Zoom calls, many of us turn away from our screens only to see an empty house or apartment. That might help explain why Austin Pets Alive reported a 70% year-over-year increase in cat adoptions and a 60% spike in dog adoptions in the early days of the pandemic.

Now, Austin insurtech startup The Zebra has built pet adoptions into its set of employee perks. The insurance comparison startup is giving employees up to $300 a year to adopt a new cat or dog.

The company says that as far as it knows, the offer is the first of its kind offered by an employer. Additionally, employees are offered time off to get to know their new pets, called “Pawternity” leave.

“There was a time a while ago when I took my Labrador, Zuma, with me on the train into my office daily. I know this kind of companionship can make a huge difference in quality of life and mental health. Especially now that we’re all working remotely for the foreseeable future, I want to make sure that anyone at The Zebra who wants to, can experience that,” says Keith Melnick, CEO of The Zebra. 

While the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the need for helping area shelter animals find homes continues — and does the need to help Austin remain a no-kill city, as it has been since 2010.

This year, KXAN is continuing its partnership with several local animal shelters for our annual adoption drive, Clear The Shelters. This year’s event is a month-long adoption drive-thru that will last throughout August.

Visit the KXAN Clear The Shelters page for the latest updates, resources and to find out how to adopt a dog or cat in the Austin area.