No increase in post-lockdown animal surrenders

Rescue groups were pleasantly surprised when animal surrenders did not increase during the pandemic.

Ivan Morgan is a volunteer with Heavenly Creatures in St. John’s. Unlike much of the country, there has been no increase in the return of adopted animals. Chad Feehan/Kicker

Chad Feehan
Kicker News

Local animal shelters feared an increase in animal surrenders once people went back to work after the pandemic eased.

Gander SPCA and its manager Bonnie Harris were pleasantly surprised when post-lockdown surrender numbers did not spike.

Harris suggests the shelter’s strict adoption vetting process might have something to do with it.

“Our application process makes sure the animal is going to go to a home where it will be well cared for,” Harris said. “I guess we’re asking all the right questions because we haven’t seen any major (increase in) surrenders either from animals that were adopted from us or otherwise.”

In fact, surrenders of animals at the Gander SPCA have been trending downwards. In 2021, there were 313 compared to 401 in 2018.

These numbers were the opposite of what was expected to come out of the pandemic.

“I think a lot of the groups were expecting to see an increase in animals surrendered,” said Harris.

Heavenly Creatures, located in St. John’s, is a rescue organization that facilitates surrenders and adoptions between clients without the use of a shelter. Like Gander SPCA, they have not seen the expected rise in post-pandemic returns.

Jessica Rendell, owner of Heavenly Creatures, says the nature of surrenders they are receiving are no different than previous years.

“People are giving the usual reasons for needing to surrender,” said Rendell, “Having to move and not being able to find a pet-friendly apartment, behavioural issues with the animals, allergies and deaths in the family.”

In July, a CBC article pointed to multiple animal rescue groups in Alberta reporting an increase in surrender requests. The article went on to note that this wasn’t the case across the country.

Education about animal welfare, says Harris, could be a factor in the downturn.

She believes pet owners are spaying and neutering their pets and that is keeping populations down. The availability and popularity of pet insurance, she says, is also a boon to helping pet owners hold on to their animals.

There was one COVID-related surrender to the organization, says Rendell, but it was not the result of an impulsive pandemic adoption as had been expected.

“A cat who was adopted from HC three years ago was recently returned to us because his owner lost his job owing to the lockdowns and was moving out of the province for an employment opportunity,” said Rendell.

Ivan Morgan, volunteer at Heavenly Creatures and Rendell’s husband, says the organization does what it can.

“We really do try and help as best we can, in the ways that we can, and as many people as we can,” said Morgan.”

The downward trend, says Harris, is being seen most dramatically in the availability of dogs for adoption, a far cry from when she joined the SPCA 25 years ago.

“Our dog area would always be full,” said Harris.


*The reference to Heavenly Creatures having animals surrendered to them because of the inability for an owner to afford care has been removed. According to the group, this is not currently an issue.   

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