High adoption rates sparks new issues for animal shelters
By Jessica Berget, Assistant Editor
“Breeders know that people would prefer to rescue animals, they will put online posts on Kijiji and other websites. They’ll make it sound like they’re a rescue or they’re adopting animals, but the reality is they bred those animals.”
At the beginning of the pandemic, animals were being adopted from shelters in record numbers. In December, the Other Press followed up with local SPCA’s and the adoption business was still booming. In the past week however, reports in the US are now saying pandemic pets are now being returned or surrendered in record numbers and indeed the same is happening here in Canada.
In mid-January, Global News reported that the animals adopted during the peak of the pandemic are now being returned in record numbers now that people are going back to work. One concern of animal rescue organizations is that these new fur families are not equipped to deal with the financial and mental responsibilities of their new pets. “They just can’t financially deal with it,” said senior dog handler Cassandra Ferrante. “The people that are getting puppies during this time are kind of doing it in the heat of the moment and not really thinking about the long-term and how much work goes into owning an animal.”
One rescue sanctuary in Ontario report that they are now receiving at least 10 surrender applications a day mostly with dogs and horses. The Humane Society of Durham Region reports a small number of animal surrenders, but are worried this will change once the pandemic comes to an end and people go back to work. “Our shelter, like many others, are very worried about the possibility that animals will come flooding back into shelters when people return to work, and their animals are suffering from separation anxiety.”
While some animals are being surrendered, adoption interest is still very high at this point of the pandemic and has given weight to people selling or breeding pets illegally. According to a May 14 Global News article, websites like Kijiji have people selling puppies for thousands. Kara Olsen from the Humane Society in Ontario says it’s impossible to buy from a reputable breeder right now as animals are being traded like commodities online and giving rise to puppy mills who take advantage of the high demand. “Because there’s so much money to be made right now and because breeders know that people would prefer to rescue animals, they will put online posts on Kijiji and other websites. They’ll make it sound like they’re a rescue or they’re adopting animals, but the reality is they bred those animals.” Rescue groups estimate over 40 percent of dogs sold over Kijiji will eventually be surrendered to shelters as well.
The high demand has also given rise to puppy scams—something the Better Business Bureau says has lost Canadians over $300,000 from people pretending to be breeders (double the amount in 2019). Animal organizations also worry about people being laid off and unable to care financially for their pets, and all of this is why Humane Canada started Canada’s first national pet food bank back in December 2020.
In January, it was reported that Canada’s animal hospitals have also become swamped with the increase of pandemic pets and a shortage of qualified veterinarians. Dr. Danny Joffe, VP or medical operation for Veterinarians Centres of America (VCA) Canada says the canine population has increased from 10 to 20 percent since 2020 and that wait times for appointments can be as long as three weeks.
While many might think these are reasons enough to not adopt a dog at this time, Karen Reichheld, manager of animal care adoptions at the SPCA in Ontario says this is the best time to consider adoption, adding that she herself adopted a French Bulldog named Stella in the spring. “People have extra time to be training… it’s a good time to acclimatize an animal to their household, to have animals meet each other and supervise. It was the perfect time for me to incorporate her with my other dog. I’m a success story as well. We’ve had her for close to six months now.”