Why Are So Many Pets Being Abandoned During COVID?

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What do you do when you are bored, lonely and have no social interaction during lockdown? Many opted to purchase a pet. Pets have been proven time and time again to provide comfort and friendship to humans in their time of need.

In September alone, the ABC reported that the Maribyrnong City Council in Melbourne’s West had registered “1000 more dogs than the same time period a year before.”

The Lost Dogs’ Home in North Melbourne had a similar experience when they recorded a total of 5,152 pets being adopted from their animal protection organisation from 2019-2020 – this is their biggest adoption number in more than five years. In May of 2020 alone, they saw 561 pets being adopted from their shelter.

But if the demand for pet adoption soared during lockdown, why are animal shelters now seeing an influx of surrendered animals?

Fuelled by the same anxiety that saw the likes of panic buying in grocery stores, spontaneous decisions to purchase pets has resulted in over-populated animal shelters.

Impulsive and opportunistic purchasing of pets during isolation provided relief for some but as more individuals return to work, they are starting to realise that they do not have the same amount of time to care for an animal that they once did.

One example of this is the Wade family who adopted a Great Dane puppy named Buddy from Gumtree after another family realised that they could no longer care for the puppy now that they were returning to their normal lives, post-lockdown. Christie Wade states “The family we adopted him from bought him for their eight-year-old son so he would have someone to play with during lockdown and within a month their child had returned to school and they no longer had the need for a puppy. Buddy was only three months old before he was re-listed for a new home.”

Other individuals purchased pets without fully understanding the number of financial obligations that are associated with owning a pet, for instance, estimates provided by ASIC’s MoneySmart website states that “the average cat owner will fork out up to $6,000 in their cat’s first year, $1,029 each year after that. If your cat lives to 20, that could equate to over $25,000.”

Evidence suggests that even animals that have not been surrendered have had their mental health affected by COVID 19 as many pets are now suffering from separation anxiety after going from having their owners with them every day to regularly being left home alone.

Alex Sampson, Senior Manager of Media Relations at The Lost Dogs’ Home in North Melbourne, urges people to conduct research when contemplating whether to adopt a pet, “consider your living environment and lifestyle, including taking into consideration what your lifestyle is expected to be beyond the pandemic.”

“The Lost Dogs’ Home applies consistent and thorough screening methods for prospective adopters at all times to make sure the right matches are made for a forever home outcome. We were especially careful in adhering to our screening methods throughout the pandemic. When our four-legged visitors leave us, we want to make sure it’s for the first and last time.”

If you are thinking of taking on a new pet remember to do your research, try to find out as much information that you can about the type of animal that you are hoping to adopt, consider the financial commitments of owning a pet and try before you buy – offer to walk friends’ pets or become a pet sitter through MadPaws.

Finally, always remember that owning a pet is a massive responsibility! Pets are not toys they need love, care and attention.