Are ‘pandemic pets’ really being sent back to shelters?

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

While many people who adopted pets during the early months of the COVID-19 outbreak gave their furry friends loving and lasting homes, there were occasional reports that some of these animals had already been returned or abandoned by mid-2021. However, officials at some of the country’s busiest shelters say it’s unlikely these newly abandoned animals are the same ones that were adopted during the 2020 “pandemic pet” boom.

“We have been diligent when it comes to selecting these families who are looking to adopt, which I think has helped [keep people from returning]said Paula Fasseas, Founder and President of PAWS Chicago. “We have a lot of good animals in big houses.”

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

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

A study 2021 from Shelter Animals Count, which maintains a national database of shelter statistics, also found that admission levels to U.S. shelters increased only 0.56% from 2020 to 2021. And if you compare From 2021 to 2019, shelters actually saw a 23% decrease in the number of animals that were returned, according to the study.

There are, of course, always exceptions to these trends. A number of rescue organizations actually reported an increase in return rates in late 2021, but people across the country weren’t bringing their animals back “in droves,” the study concluded.

So if fewer people are returning their pets overall, is there really a reason to worry?

Absolutely, according to Fasseas.

In his experience, the current crisis has little to do with people abandoning their pandemic pets, and more to do with existing pet owners who have abandoned their pets after experiencing life changes brought on by the pandemic. pandemic.

“When there is change, animals are always the victim of change,” she said. “You hear people say, ‘They don’t take animals where I’m moving. “I’m getting married”, etc. There were also higher rates of [human] mortality since COVID, and where are their pets going? Pets are always part of it.

Worse still, Fasseas said many municipal shelters had been forced to scale back operations since the onset of COVID, and some were temporarily refusing to take in owner-abandoned animals.

In Chicago, for example, Fasseas said PAWS “gets calls every day” from people who report finding abandoned animals. Others called and said they wanted to give up a pet, but city agencies told them they couldn’t drop them off for months.

Chicago Animal Care and Control, meanwhile, had never closed to the public, but confirmed to Nexstar that it had moved to a system of admissions by appointment (rather than allowing owners to return their animals when they wished) from March 19. 2020. This system remains in place, and it’s one of the reasons why some people have just abandoned their pets on the streets, Fasseas said.

“Things like that happen, but it happens so much more now,” she said.

If someone really has to give up a pet, Fasseas insists they give themselves plenty of time — months, if not — to organize a shelter. And for those who want to adopt, well, she says they have 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.”