by Serena Bains, Staff Writer
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, shelters have been struggling to keep up with the demand for pet adoptions. This increase in demand is great for the shelters and animals in the short-term, but there are negative effects as well. The most significant of these are pets experiencing separation anxiety and shelters bracing for an influx of surrendered pets because of this. While adopting pets is immediately beneficial to all parties involved, there needs to be an understanding of best practices, what adopting a pet entails, and possible alternatives.
Now that COVID-19 restrictions are becoming less strict, many pets are experiencing separation anxiety. The animals become accustomed to people constantly being in their presence and caring for them, that the sudden change to being alone for significant amounts of time can cause separation anxiety and associated behavioural changes. Behavioural changes can include: panic, pacing, destroying items, vocalizing, etc.
Behavioural problems are the most common reason for why people surrender their pets, which is why some shelters are anticipating a “surrender boom” once individuals revert to their old routines. There is also concern amongst shelters that the longer people are unemployed, the more financial hardship they will face. Thus, people will no longer be able to afford caring for their pets, resulting in more pets being surrendered.
To avoid having to contemplate surrendering a pet one should have an understanding of the best practices and alternatives to adopting available to them. First, determine whether you can afford having a pet if the situation you are currently in continues. Consider the costs of grooming, vaccinations, annual appointments, pet insurance, food, supplies, etc. Second, prepare your pet for increased time alone. This can include crate training, leaving the pet alone for a few hours at a time and investing in professional training. Lastly, if you have any doubts about adopting a pet, foster. Fostering pets can be a great way to determine if you are ready for the commitment and to have the opportunity to provide the pet with greater love and socialization.
I understand that in the pandemic, most of us are spending more time alone at home than ever before. The impulse to adopt a pet to share all of this extra time with is a natural progression. I adopted a dog, Lena, a couple years ago for the same reason, but I had no idea what I was getting myself into. The costs associated with grooming, specialized diets, kidney failure, being denied pet insurance due to a pre-existing condition, training, etc. seemed insurmountable. Although, I could never imagine surrendering her I’m not sure what I would’ve done if I was dealing with behavioural issues on top of the extreme financial stress I was facing. Let this serve as a caution, do your research, be prepared to train your pet for when you go back to work and have an understanding of the commitment adopting a pet is. Only after taking all this information into consideration, make a decision regarding whether or not to adopt a pet.