Greenwich Animal Control sees number of homeless pets rise after pet adoption peaks in 2020

GREENWICH – During the most upsetting times of COVID-19, many have relied on the company of their pets.

But with changing times, Greenwich Animal Control is, like many other shelters, experiencing an increase in the number of animals being left stray, experts say.

The contributions “start to go up. I think with COVID there was less. Now, as life changes, whether it’s for financial reasons or a lot of different things, it’s starting to increase again, ”said Suzanne Ondreicka, animal control officer in Greenwich.

Just as the pandemic has affected city operations in city hall and public schools, Greenwich Animal Control has been impacted by COVID-19. For months, the agency had fewer animals than normal, but its veteran employees now say they are starting to see operations normalizing.

The data of the National Shelter Animal Count Database confirms that the trend is national. From 2019 to 2020, shelters across the country welcomed 22% fewer animals. In 2021, inflows increased by 6% compared to the previous year, but remained 17% lower than 2019 inflows.

Private organizations are also taking in more abandoned pets in Fairfield County, the data shows. An average of 16 dogs per month were brought into three rescues tracked by Shelter Animal Count in 2020. In 2022, the database averaged 40 taken per month from two rescue organizations.

Adoptions were highest between June and December 2020 in Fairfield County, and declined in early 2021 but have increased since late 2021, according to the database.

Greenwich Animal Control is the only public animal adoption entity in Greenwich. Currently he has a dog and three cats put online for adoption.

Animal Control provides food for some owners who are struggling financially as it often receives food donations.

Various private rescue organizations also take in homeless animals in the area.

City kennel manager Bill Petersen said he’s received calls from pet owners moving to a new state and not wanting to bring their dog. Others who tried to return their pets faced economic hardship or struggled with owners who didn’t accept their pets, he said.

Although it does not accept animals abandoned by their owners, Greenwich Animal Control cares for many dogs that have been abandoned by their owners. Some were discovered tied to poles with dog food next to them, Ondreicka said. In a normal year, they take in between 50 and 80 stray animals, she said.

She said she believed Greenwich’s perceived wealth inspires some people to come to town to dump an animal. When animal control was previously located in Bruce Park, the area was a “hotspot” for abandoned dogs, she said.

Adoption process

Greenwich Animal Control wants prospective adopters to realize that it is not eager to release the animals in its care to just anyone.

“We’re not trying to get rid of them; we are trying to find a suitable home,” Petersen said. “People come, and they get mad that we won’t let them (immediately adopt). “Why can’t I take them now?” Because there is a process.

Adopters must prove they are allowed to have an animal in their home, either by providing an owner’s contact details or showing proof of ownership. Animal Control also calls the adopter’s veterinarian to ensure that all current animals receive proper care.

Petersen said he enjoys watching how people walk the dog they want to adopt and gives them training tips. He says he can usually spot a bad fit.

“We’re also the complaints department here when there’s a problem with the dog,” Ondreicka said, referring to Animal Control’s work outside of stray animal adoption.

Greenwich Animal Control responds to animal-related situations, such as biting incidents or animals disturbing neighbours. So Ondreicka and Petersen said they try to make sure animals are placed in homes that are best for their welfare.

Recently, Animal Control hosted a low-cost vaccination clinic to combat a trend noted during the pandemic.

“Since COVID, we’ve seen a lot of animals that aren’t vaccinated,” Ondreicka said. “During the pandemic, a lot of people were buying animals because they wanted companionship. … The vets were trying to carry on with their regular pets and now with all these additional new pets, people were having a hard time getting appointments to get their shots and stuff like that.

During the clinic, 48 pets received their vaccines.

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