pets
Shelters are seeing more pets being returned as the pandemic wanes. (Getty Images)

2020 was a good year for homeless animals. As lockdowns became the new normal and people were stuck inside with nowhere to go and no one to see, they turned to cats and dogs for companionship. Shelters and rescues were cautiously optimistic that deserving cats and dogs would finally find their forever home even once restrictions were lifted. 

Today, though, Ashley Buroker from St. James manages Almost Home Animal Rescue and Adoption in Patchogue and confirms an alarming trend: an uptick in surrenders, as the world opens up again.

“When the pandemic first hit, we saw an influx of people looking to adopt,” says Buroker. “Many saw it as great timing as they had more time than ever to devote to a pet. They also viewed it as a form of emotional support. There was such a high demand for pets that many local shelters turned to taking more animals from out-of-state shelters.”

Proper vetting became a challenge for volunteers and staff. With so many potential adopters, rescues and shelters had to remain cautious and continue to follow a new, more rigorous review process. Those wanting a pet who did not have a solid plan for the animal post-pandemic were quickly dismissed, which then led to people seeking pets through other means.  

Due to the low supply and high demand, those desperate for a pet were soon reaching out to pet stores and breeders offering well above asking price for the chance to bring a dog home.  

“We’re now seeing many designer breeds and toy breeds surrendered,” notes Buroker. 

While reputable breeders require owners to disclose if they no longer wish to own the dog they’ve purchased, others do not require the same due diligence process and in turn, many are dumped at shelters when they are no longer wanted. In addition, adoption rates have dropped significantly.  

“Almost Home adoptions have dropped by 60 percent in the month of April,” says Buroker.  

What’s most important to note is the significant damage this process can have on an animal. Going from one environment to another creates instability, fear, and depression, which sometimes cannot be reversed. Pets are a lifelong commitment and should not have to suffer due to an ever-changing world. If you want to adopt but can’t commit for the long haul, please consider a more temporary situation such as fostering or volunteering. 

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