Don’t make pets pay for wishful thinking

When Ontario entered its first Covid-19 lockdown on March 23, 2020, people found themselves with a lot more time at home, and a lot less things to do. For many people, getting a pet seemed like a logical thing to do: a pet would provide company and a purpose to guide those many days stuck at home that were to come. As a result, the price of pets from breeders skyrocketed, and the availability of pets for purchase or adoption plummeted.

Though many individuals and families have found a pet that they will love for life, shelters and adoption agencies are experiencing an uptick of animal surrenders. There are many reasons for this: perhaps the animal that has become used to constant companionship suddenly finds itself alone for 8 hours a day and acts out, or perhaps someone who’s financial situation could accommodate a pet a year ago no longer has cash to spare.

Koby, who was adopted last week by Brenda Barclay-Smith of Kemptville, was given away for free on social media. Brenda says that Koby was covered in matted fur, didn’t seem to know how to navigate grass, and continues to startle when he sees insects, even the smallest of ants, on the ground outside. Brenda took Koby to Paddy Paws to reveal a very handsome one-year old terrier. He has a sweet nature, but obvious separation anxiety and a complete lack of training. Brenda says that the issue is not, "just dogs, but cats, rabbits, birds, you name it. They're being dumped or just given away. It’s just the fortunate ones that are surrendered properly."

Though it will be a challenge to get Koby started on training and learning about the outdoors at one year old, Brenda is up for the task. She says, "my husband and I kind of have a history of either rescuing dogs ourselves or adopting dogs from rescues." While it is true that when you adopt a rescue dog, you adopt that dog’s past traumas, training (or lack thereof), and behavioural issues, many rescue dogs can become just as reliable, well trained, and trustworthy as a dog purchased as a puppy. Brenda recalls, of another rescue dog, "Even though he had lived in a cage for five years, he learned to embrace life and he was wonderful."

To Brenda, there are "some very legitimate reasons" to surrender a pet. At the same time, she wishes "people had put more thought into it." Any pet is going to be work: you can’t simply purchase an animal and expect that it will behave perfectly.

There is no shame in surrendering a pet if, for any reason, you find yourself unprepared to properly care for it. Otherwise, the pet may end up living in a state of neglect. However, this situation can be entirely avoided if one does enough research before committing to a pet, and is honest with oneself about one’s own capacities. Pets are not a commodity, and they shouldn't have to pay for our wishful thinking.

Rachel Everett-Fry, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The North Grenville Times

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