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Animal rescue organizations seeing influx of surrendered animals post-pandemic

Adoptions and fosters have slowed down, while more and more pets are showing up at shelters
Pictured is Tucker, a dog that is currently in foster care through Meant 2B Loved pet rescue society. (Meant 2 B Loved file)

Animal rescue organizations are struggling with burnout and mounting pressure to find suitable homes for adoptable pets.

Meant 2B Loved pet rescue in Cranbrook is temporarily pausing the intake of animals, as is Alberta Animal Rescue Crew Society (AARCS), as each organization struggles with an influx of surrendered animals.

Meant 2B Loved is an entirely volunteer-run pet rescue society that operates across the East Kootenay region. It takes in surrendered animals with the goal of finding foster and permanent homes.

Board member Stacie Johnson says that since the pandemic has slowed, so have adoption and foster rates. The society has made the tough decision to stop taking in animals since members have exhausted all of their resources.

“This is not a decision that we’ve made lightly by any means. We’ve had a huge increase in local surrenders and the amount of suitable fosters we have has dropped right down,” Johnson said. “We had a surplus of fosters and adopters during COVID, when everyone was home, and now it is the opposite.”

Deanna Thompson, Executive Director of AARCS said her organization is facing similar challenges.

“Every shelter and rescue is feeling it,” Thompson said. “We saw a 200 per cent increase in adoption applications in 2020 compared to 2019, and families came in droves to foster pets. By August 2022, not only have we gone back to pre-COVID numbers, but we are seeing a further decrease in applications from 2019.

“People returning to work, or a change of life they couldn’t see coming, including the effects inflation, are forcing people to give up their pets at higher rates. We are also seeing behavioural concerns with dogs that grew up during the pandemic who are under-socialized, requiring extensive and time-consuming rehabilitation.”

“Couple that with an increase in animals in need, and we’ve hit a capacity within the animal welfare system that we haven’t seen in years.”

One of the best ways to help, Johnson said, is to donate to your local rescue society.

“We are so grateful to our current fosters who have been so patient with us and the animals. And to the other organizations that have helped us out as well,” Johnson said.

Meanwhile, a parallel shortage of available veterinary care could result in some animals not being spayed or neutered.

“This could produce unwanted offspring or contribute to surrenders if people cannot afford veterinary care,” Thompson said.

Johnson said part of their reason for suspending intakes is to ensure they aren’t overwhelming vets. She hopes the pause can be lifted in 4-6 weeks, adding that board members face verbal abuse and mounting anxiety.

“We rescue animals, that’s our number one priority - making sure they are healthy, and finding them a good home.”

READ: East Kootenay veterinarians form cooperative to offer more emergency services

READ: Veterinarians facing intense pressure from pandemic pet boom

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Corey Bullock

About the Author: Corey Bullock

Corey Bullock is a multimedia journalist and writer who grew up in Burlington, Ontario.
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