As we move further beyond 2020, there are some important lessons to be learned from our behavior under duress. In particular, let’s talk about how we feel about cats and dogs.
Regular readers of this column know our house points on Sadie, an aging Chocolate Labrador Retriever. We adopted her from the Apple Valley Animal Shelter when she was about 1½ years old. Several people entered a lottery to adopt Sadie back in 2013.
The shelter staff asked the first “winner” questions about the type of household the dog would enter. The family had three children and two other dogs. It looked like we were going to lose our chance on Sadie until the prospective adoptive father was asked how much the family would spend on this dog for a year of care and maintenance. His answer: $ 50. The shelter person saw this as an unrealistic estimate. Also, two other dogs at the shelter had recently tested positive for parvovirus, and the shelter didn’t want this dog in a home with other dogs.
So Sadie came home with us.
Amid the pandemic, pet adoptions “shot through the roof”. In fact, someone coined the term “pandemic puppy” to denote the huge surge in pet adoptions over the past year. However, recently there has been talk of several news stories about people returning or leaving these animals when they return to work or travel again. As a lifelong dog, I find this behavior to be synonymous with cruelty to animals. Offenders should pay a heavy price.
However, every story has a different side.
The lessons we continue to learn from the pandemic puppy frenzy are innumerable. While the purpose of most shelters is to find a home for potential pets before they need to be euthanized, the system needs to pay more attention to user approvals.
Many of the dogs that are returned to shelters are large, untrained babies. They were cute and cuddly puppies brought home by needy people, many of whom were first-time pet owners. Well then these puppies became real dogs.
According to the authorities, these “rookie” owners made several important mistakes. They thought a pet was a stress reliever, which they aren’t. There are drugs and meditation for that. Often times, they give pets a self-imposed personality that may not match the real one. Some animals are natural cuddles, while others prefer space. Some pets become stressed if they are touched too hard or if they are ignored or left alone.
New pet owners rarely understand the importance of training and setting a specific schedule for their new friend. Yes, you are at home every day – all day – but that doesn’t mean that a regular feeding and exercise schedule shouldn’t be established at the beginning of your relationship.
Younger adults didn’t want to have babies during the pandemic. About 3.6 million babies were born in 2020, down 4% from 2019, and the lowest number of U.S. births in over 40 years, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. Some of the time and money that would have been spent caring for and feeding a newborn baby went instead to a new pet.
Animals brought home during lockdown know one version of life: the owners are always at home. If these animals were not trained well enough, if their owners only had time to share with their new pets, disruptive behavior problems can arise when the owners go back to work or when the daily routine changes dramatically in other ways.
In 2020, pet owners spent $ 103.6 billion on products, services, and squeaky toys for Fido. The cost of a new puppy cannot be overlooked. The reality of pet costs helped me get Sadie, but it can also lead people to give up their pet. The ASPCA estimates that a dog owner can expect to spend between $ 1,500 and $ 9,000 annually on Fido. When a serious illness or surgery is required, these numbers can jump. Experienced pet owners buy pet insurance.
The financial burden of unprepared new pet owners should not be underestimated. The Best Friends Animal Society analyzed 1.1 million pet returns and found that 13.7% were evictions, 5% expense, and 4% personal problems.
Domestic violence, which is also increasing during the COVID lockdown, is another reason for pet evictions. Almost half of domestic violence survivors said they stayed in the abusive home out of concern for their pets, and 71% said their pets were routinely threatened or injured.
There are a few good reasons why pets should be returned to a shelter or given up for re-adoption. With that in mind, the return of pandemic puppies can be a slightly exaggerated story. While pet returns are up 82.6% in 2021, they’re still 12.5% below the 2019 numbers.
Americans have become more selfish and “focused on me,” which can be responsible for some pet returns when we return to normal routines. Many private emergency services perform follow-up exams and in-home checks to qualify for pet adoption. It would be helpful if state-sponsored agencies also intensified their qualification efforts. Potential users could potentially pay an extra charge for in-depth background and review checks.
Do you have a new pet and need to return to work or embark on the postponed cruise? A Google search found eight companies in Victor Valley that offer either daycare for dogs or overnight accommodation. Some companies now let employees bring their pets to work.
Our pets put their existence in our hands. They give us their loyalty until their last breath. The least we can do is guarantee the promise of loyalty and friendship to honor the bond we pet owners voluntarily make.
Contact Pat Orr at [email protected]