Are ‘pandemic pets’ really being returned to shelters?

Are 'pandemic pets' really being returned to shelters? 41 logo

(NEXSTAR) – Pet shelters and rescue agencies saw a significant increase in adoption rates at the start of the pandemic. But there is another side to that story, and part of it is playing out on the streets across America.

While many people who adopted pets in the early months of the COVID-19 outbreak gave their furry friends loving, long-term homes, there were occasional reports that some of these animals were already being returned or abandoned as of mid-2021. According to officials at some of the nation’s busiest shelters, it’s unlikely that these newly abandoned animals were the same ones that were adopted during the “pandemic pet” boom of 2020.

“We were diligent when it came to screening these families looking to adopt, which I think helped [keep people from returning]”, said Paula Fasseas, founder and president of PAWS Chicago. “We get a lot of good animals in great homes.”

Diane Johnson, vice president of shelter operations at the North Shore Animal Leagueshe agreed, explaining that the shelter requires its adopters to go through a “robust application and approval process,” which she attributes to the low return rate.

“While there have been stories of increases in animal returns since people started returning to work/social life after the pandemic happened elsewhere, thankfully North Shore Animal League America has not seen an increase in animal returns. animals as post-lockdown protocols are lifted and life begins to return to ‘normal,'” Johnson said in a statement shared with Nexstar.

TO study 2021 Shelter Animals Count, which maintains a national database of shelter statistics, also found that US shelter admission levels had increased by just 0.56% from 2020 to 2021. And if you compare 2021 with In 2019, shelters actually saw a 23% decrease in the number of animals being returned, according to the study.

Of course, there are always exceptions to these trends. a number of rescue organizations actually reported an increase in return rates by the end of 2021, but people across the country were not bringing their animals back “en masse,” the study concluded.

So if fewer people are returning their pets overall, is there really a cause for concern?

Absolutely, according to Fasseas.

In his experience, the current crisis has less to do with people giving up their pandemic pets and more to do with existing pet owners who gave up their animals after experiencing life changes brought on by the pandemic.

“When there is change, animals are always victims of change,” he said. “You hear people say, ‘They don’t allow pets where I’m moving.’ ‘I’m getting married’, and so on. There have also been higher rates of [human] mortality from COVID, and where do your pets go? Pets are always a part of this.”

To make matters worse, Fasseas said many municipal shelters have been forced to scale back operations since COVID hit, with some temporarily refusing to take in abandoned animals.

In Chicago, for example, Fasseas said PAWS was “getting calls every day” from people who reported finding stray animals. Others called and said they wanted to give up a pet, but city agencies told them they wouldn’t be able to let them in for months.

Meanwhile, Chicago Animal Care and Control had never closed to the public, but confirmed to Nexstar that it had switched to an appointment-based intake system (rather than allowing owners to release their animals whenever they wanted) effective March 19. . 2020. That system remains in place, and it’s one of the reasons some people had just abandoned their animals on the street, Fasseas said.

“Those kinds of things happen, but they’re happening a lot more now,” he said.

If someone really must give up a pet, Fasseas urges that they give themselves plenty of time, even months, to organize a shelter. And for those who want to adopt, well, she says they need to be ready for a long-term commitment, no matter what the pandemic throws at them.

“Everyone’s life is changing at a much faster rate,” Fasseas said. “And it’s important that this new member of the family is taken care of.”