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Surrendered 'pandemic pets' stretching local shelters to the limit

Halifax-based animal rights advocate Tracy Jessiman tells CityNews Halifax that local shelters need support as people continue to surrender their pets
ns spca 77 dogs surrendered (1)
Photo courtesy of Nova Scotia SPCA

A Halifax-based animal rights advocate says the "pandemic pet" problem isn’t going away anytime soon.

Tracy Jessiman says that rising inflation and people resuming in-person work at out-of-home offices are two of the main contributors to a growing increase of surrendered pets showing up at animal shelters.

Many shelters across Canada are so burdened they are claiming to be overwhelmed by the number of surrendered "pandemic pets" they are receiving and are stretched to overcapacity due to the abandoned animals.

“They are taking in more animals than animals that are going out,” Jessiman tells CityNews Halifax. “Some families can just no longer cover the costs of veterinarian care or food or medical supplies for their pets so those pets are being surrendered (and) many of them have medical, mental or behavioural issues because of poor breeding or lack of training or socializing during the pandemic.”

While Jessiman says she recognizes that the rising cost of living has created great financial pressure on people, she encourages pet owners to look at other options other than surrendering their animals — such as pet food banks, low-cost veterinary care or re-homing the animal.

“Before surrendering your pet, maybe speak with family or friends,” says Jessiman. “Maybe there will be someone willing to take in your animal and re-home it so it doesn’t have to go through another shelter or rescue.”

She notes that education is a key component in helping to alleviate the issue of overcapacity at shelters, noting that people should be taught early on about what it takes to own a pet.

“They also need to look at how much it costs to bring an animal into your home, what it costs to care for that animal and what the dog or that cat needs to thrive,” adds Jessiman. “The way I look at it, it’s like having a permanent two-year-old in your house for 15 years.”

Jessiman says the issue of "pandemic pets" extends beyond overburdened shelters and rescues as well, adding that veterinarian services and technicians are also burning out and exiting the sector, which is causing staff shortages.

She encourages people to support local shelters like the Dartmouth SPCA in anyway they can to help manage the burden of the ongoing "pandemic pet" crisis.

“If anybody can help the shelters and rescues — if they can donate even $25, that would help,” adds Jessiman, noting that there are also many volunteer and donation opportunities with shelters and rescues. “There’s many things that people can do to help.”


Steve Gow

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