Senior Abandonment: A Disturbing New Trend
How do they do it? Gather up the leash, the food and water bowls, the snuggly teddy, and the "blankie" and say, "Come on pal, who wants to go for a car ride?". Or, worse yet, the monster who drives out to the country late at night and, with the car running, says, "OK boy, go fetch the ball!". Surely not, you say? But, let me assure you, it happens. There's also the softer "dump" and even sometimes, the heartbreaking-no-other-choice "dump". But, to the senior fur-kids, a dump's a dump!!!
Certainly, between the pandemic and floundering economy, the past 3 years have been an extraordinary chapter in history and I know that there isn't one of you out there who hasn't, in some way, been negatively affected by any or all of the events that have unfolded so far. Sadly, I don't believe we're near the end just yet.
Unfortunately, the needs of others don't stop; especially during hard times. And, that includes the care and maintenance of our dogs. Surrendered, stray, abused, and abandoned dogs are still landing in shelters everywhere, albeit not currently at the same level here in Canada as in the United States. In fact, there was a point earlier in the pandemic that Canadian shelters were turning away would-be adopters because there weren't dogs available. Unfortunately, in the US, the rate of abandoned dogs skyrocketed as fears of false and misleading info regarding the canine-to-human transfer of Covid-19 spread, people landed in the hospital (or worse yet, died), or families could no longer afford their dog due to the loss of jobs. This situation however, could still yet change in an instant here, closer to home, as our economy continues to struggle. Hard choices will need to be made.
THE PANDEMIC DOG
Over the past 36 months the trend has extended beyond just the "senior" dump. Here in Canada, the impulse to adopt a "pandemic" dog caught traction as people decided they could use the company since they had so much time on their hands while stuck at home. But, the greater concern now shared by rescue groups around the country is what has begun to happen post pandemic as our economy falters and the cost of everything continues to rise.
But, the greater concern now shared by rescue groups around the country is what has begun to happen post pandemic as our economy falters and the cost of everything continues to rise.
In early 2022, shelters began reporting an increase in animals being surrendered. The Regina Humane Society received at least 200 more animals (not just canine) in the first quarter of 2022 compared to the previous year. Toronto Animal Services saw a 60% increase in pets being dumped off. The top reason being cited is the expense of caring for a pet.
As folks began to resume their normal lives, that sweet little dog has now become a burden. After all, when families must choose whether to pay the mortgage or make a visit to the vet, who will come out the loser? Further, as had been widely speculated, the rates of dogs developing separation anxiety (a serious issue if you've ever had to deal with it) escalated and thus, possibly leading to dogs being "dumped". And, for folks who were used to being socially active, discovering the issue of having a fur-kid at home with needs that must be met in a timely manner (like potty and meal times), have now become a nuisance that outweighs the cuddliness of said fur-kid.
My heart broke recently as I read the profile of a bonded pair of 12 year old cock-a-poos, who were dumped because of divorce. The foster stated, "Having lived their entire lives as part of a busy family (pets and kids), a split sadly found them with no home at all." WHY??? Or, yesterday, there was another sweet fellow, a darling 15-year-old cocker spaniel whose family decided that his aging and veterinary needs, along with the decision to get a new puppy, outweighed any love or loyalty for him. I just sobbed as I read his sad story of severe neglect and abandonment! How totally UNFAIR!
HEARTACHE OVER HARD DECISIONS
More recently, as our economy began to bottom out, families have been struggling to meet their day-to-day needs and many are actually finding themselves taking advantage of food bank services and other social assistance. Regretfully however, instead of looking for similar supports for their pets, the decision to "dump" them is being made. Shelters are, even now, overflowing with pets being surrendered on a daily basis. Skyrocketing costs (and often costs that new pet parents didn't realize would be required to care for a fur-kid) have forced families to surrender the pooch they welcomed to their families just a couple of years ago.
But folks, here's the gist of my story. You see, pet rescues everywhere are now feverishly working overtime to save hundreds of sweet souls from the despair of being abandoned; providing the warm, loving, secure, and happy life they deserve for their remaining days. Recently, a number of local groups were forced to close "intake" temporarily due to a shortage of funds and foster families. Is this a sign of what's to come? More and more food banks for pets are popping up throughout the province and the country as people recognize the need for assistance the pet families require. But, I don't think enough publicity or promotion is being done to reach those whose needs are greatest. As part of Humane Canada, a national pet food bank program was created during COVID to assist families of pets who are struggling financially. [https://humanecanada.ca/national-pet-food-bank/] The goal of the program is to "keep families together". Through a grant program, the first of its kind in Canada, Pet Food Pantries and Food Banks receive funding to support pet families in their community.
As part of Humane Canada, a national pet food bank program was created during COVID to assist families of pets who are struggling financially.
Additionally, a number of veterinarians are offering to negotiate payment terms and, while not ideal, there are a couple of emergency vet care credit cards available that might help with a hit to a really tight budget.
WORLD DAY AGAINST THE ABANDONMENT OF DOMESTIC ANIMALS
Education must be the first step when it comes to preventing the abandonment of pets. By requiring potential pet parents to be fully aware of the commitment they are making when applying for an adoption, they should not only be vetted for understanding the mechanics of physical care and training required, but should also be clearly informed of the potential COSTS involved in caring for a fur-kid over the span of its life. We're talking many, many thousands of dollars! Lists of social programs as described above should also be provided in an effort to ensure that, should times get tough, there is no valid reason for dumping a fur-kid. [As a gesture of love and loyalty, you can download this pledge form as a way of reconfirming your commitment to your pet.]
Tuesday, June 24th, is World Day Against the Abandonment of Domestic Animals! In today's hurting world, there is never a good time to appeal for support. The hard times, like we're experiencing right now, are when it's even more important to pull together and sometimes we just have to be shameless in backing a cause. Together, we can make the twilight time of an aging, dumped off fur-kid happy and safe! If you've the slightest inclination, even the tiniest donation to a local rescue group or pet food pantry will help make a a BIG difference to the lives of so many who've found themselves homeless at a time when love and security is more critical than ever. Foster families and donations are always the most sought after support by rescue groups, but getting creative and coming up with other ways to offer support are always welcome.
As pet lovers, we owe it to our fur-kids to do everything in our power to protect and care for them. Let's work together to help prevent pet abandonment!