When the pandemic hit, pet adoptions surged. It makes sense that lonely, isolated people would want a new furry friend to hang out with. Sadly, many adopters made these relationships temporary and have been returning their pandemic rescue animals in 2021.
Aron Jones, executive director of Moms and Mutts Colorado Rescue (MAMCO), told Huffington Post that 62 dogs have been returned to the rescue since February 2021. Of these dogs, 39 were adopted between March and July of 2020. For context, a typical 12-month period sees an average of 50 overall returns, with half being puppies or dogs adopted up to 4 weeks previously.
Ideally, no dog would ever be surrendered by their owners. Still, this happens often, and many will return the dogs not to the rescue group they adopted from but to a municipal shelter instead. Jones said this can end very poorly for the dogs:
Many people choose not to even bring the dog to a shelter, opting either to list them for free or for sale online or abandon them. As some experts point out, you never know who will end up with the dog in these online transactions. Worst-case scenarios mean they could end up abused or used as fighting or bait dogs.
Rescue groups want people who do choose to re-home their dogs to come to them first. Rob Young, the head of center operations at Battersea Dogs & Cats Home in London, said:
“We would much rather pet owners do the responsible thing of contacting a rescue center than putting a pet’s welfare at risk by selling it online or abandoning it somewhere. We aren’t ever here to judge people for the reasons behind giving up their pet.”
Returning A Dog Is Traumatic For Them
Dogs learn to love and trust the new members of their pack when they find a home. Being suddenly uprooted and brought into a crowded animal shelter can have psychological effects on the poor dog. Nicole Ellis, a dog trainer and pet lifestyle expert at Rover, explained to HuffPost:
“Most of the time, adopted pets have built up their trust and love in you and their new routine. To be taken away and put into a noisy shelter, filled with smells and sights they’re unfamiliar with, is a tough transition.”
Anxious or traumatized dogs have difficulty showing their best selves to potential adopters, especially from a kennel.
Dogs Can Adjust To Your New/Back To Normal Schedule
Naturally, people worry about how their quarantine pets will handle them going from home all day to gone until dinner time. However, this doesn’t need to be the ordeal you’d expect. As Holly Sizemore, chief mission officer for Best Friends Animal Society describes it:
“By now, many people have undoubtedly discovered the secret reality of what dogs and cats really do all day. Whether there are people around or not, they mostly sleep, with a bit of eating and playing mixed in ― all things that they can do just as easily without human companionship.”
For people who work long hours, dog walkers or sitters can be found both locally and through larger organizations. Many companies have started allowing dogs as well, so find out your workplace’s policy.
If your dog begins exhibiting signs of separation anxiety (howling, chewing furniture, etc.), try easing them slowly into their new schedule rather than abruptly resuming your former routine. Practice leaving the house for short periods of time.
Advice For People Having Difficulties With Their Pandemic Rescues
Sometimes caring for an animal can be challenging, but it’s worth the time and effort! Before you think of re-homing your dog, consider these tips:
- Anticipate your dog may have separation anxiety. Give them time to adjust to their new circumstances, and if things worsen, consider seeking professional help. It’s okay to go to the experts!
- Reach out to local rescues if you have difficulty affording food or care. They want your pets taken care of too! RedRover.org has a list of financial resources in your area.
- Walk or play with your dog before leaving for work and when you get back. This stimulation and socialization will help your dog prepare for their alone time. It can also prevent behavioral issues and strengthen your bond.
- Reward your dog for independent and calm behavior. They’ll learn to be confident doing things on their own.
- Play soothing music, TV, or radio while you’re gone. This can distract them from startling new sounds. A noise machine works as well.
Remember – there are also many options available to you if you can no longer keep your dog. Consider these before dropping them at a shelter.