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Struggling families succumbing to coronavirus-infected pets force GTA shelters to act

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COVID-19 hasn’t been kind to the humane communities and animal shelters in and around the GTA and for some, things haven’t gotten any better.

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Ruben Demytro, Director of Resource Development at Oakville and Milton Humane Society (OMHS) says Sun.

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In 2021, OMHS had a total of 118 surrenders. They have already reached that number and still have just over two months left before the end of the year.

“We get 10 to 15 calls a day – every day – from people asking how their animals are being delivered.”

Goldie, a five-year-old blonde girl, mingles at the water's edge
Goldie, 5-year-old blond, mix-patron (Toronto Humane Society)

The notable difference now versus pre-COVID is that many of the givers are purebred dogs, which were in high demand during the height of the pandemic.

Now that there’s a bit of a natural look, the fact of owning a pet and everything that comes with it has made their way into their homes for many – but it’s the animals that pay the price.

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“The dogs that are delivered to us come with higher needs — more medical, more behavioral, and many of them haven’t been to the vet,” Dmytro says. “So when they come to us, they take longer with us.”

The pandemic lockdown has meant that many of these dogs have not been able to get the kind of training they might need, or not get socialization with other dogs and people that they need.

This combination has made so many “reactions” that the owners adopt second thoughts, especially as people return to the office.

“We see a lot of dogs with anxiety, and once a dog becomes anxious, all kinds of behavioral issues can extend from that,” Dmytro explains. “You’ve been home with your dog or cat or rabbit all day, and then all of a sudden you’re back at work from 9 to 5, and they’re like, ‘Wait a minute! “

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“They can’t tell you how sad they are, so that comes in the form of behavior,” she says.

Black cat sitting in a cat swing
Marvel, a 15-year-old black cat sitting in a cat hammock (Toronto Humane Society)

Then, of course, there are pets with medical issues or special nutritional needs, which are another expense that some people haven’t thought of.

“One wrong move can cost, in medical terms, $500 or $1,000 at the vet,” Demytro says. “A dog ear infection is worth $400 to treat. This is someone’s groceries or rent.”

Those who call about handing over a pet are directed to the online re-arrival directory, but staff work with callers to provide assistance first.

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OMHS Pet Food Bank launched At the onset of a pandemic, as well as providing food for animals on prescribed or special diets.

Like human food banks, they are being “more and more accessed”.

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Meanwhile, Toronto Animal Services saw a “slight increase” in the number of surrendering dogs this year compared to 2021, but they’ve seen the numbers rise dramatically with small mammals like ferrets and rabbits.

Ashika Weil says: “TAS believes that the best place for a pet is with its owner and will work with residents to provide the best possible care and outcomes for pets, although we understand that conditions change at times, and that Surrender or return a pet It may be the most responsible and best option.”

Polly Pocket, a 10-month-old mouse, plays in a large, upside-down bowl
Polly Bucket, a 10-month-old rat, playing in a large upturned bowl, is ready for adoption. (Toronto Humane Society)

Fortunately, things are not terrible everywhere.

In the Toronto Humane Society“Adoptions are stable, and have even increased slightly from last year,” Hana Sutropa, assistant director of communications at THS, revealed.

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For those who are upset, THS offers a number of public services including a public veterinary service clinic, a public pet food bank, a pet parent support network, and training services.

“These services are meant to mitigate abandonment and help strengthen human-animal bonds,” explains Sutropa, but book in advance as services fill up quickly and have long wait times.

Like ths, the Ontario SPCA and the Humane Society We’re not seeing a huge increase in animal returns compared to their numbers before the pandemic, which is news animal lovers can find some solace in.

Pebbles, who wore a hat to celebrate the opening of OMHS's pet food bank, were abandoned by her original family.
Pebbles, who wore a hat to celebrate the opening of the OMHS pet food bank, were abandoned by their original family and forever waited for their home. (Oakville Melton Humane Society)

“We recognize that the cost of living is increasing and it is becoming increasingly difficult for some families to care for their pets,” says Melissa Koswan, associate director of communications at the Ontario SPCA.

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They also help support pet families with everything from business to connecting owners to food banks for pet food, emergency shelter, spay and neuter services that support disadvantaged families and families in need.

However, the best way to help any shelter or humane community is through donations, the more financial support they receive, the more pets and families they can help.

“Our goal is to try to keep pets with their families and prevent the return of unnecessary pets.”

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