Animal shelters on Australia’s east coast are reporting a spike in the number of animals being surrendered in the wake of lifted lockdowns and eased restrictions.
With long stretches of time at home, and neighbourhood walks one of the main available activities through the pandemic, record numbers of animals have been fostered, adopted and purchased.
“When you adopt an animal, it’s really great to spend that time bonding with them and integrating them into your household… so if you’re locked down and currently working at home, it’s a perfect time to bring a new companion into your life,” said Kristy Blake from the NSW RSPCA.
But the Lost Dogs Home in Victoria said new many owners were not properly factoring in life beyond lockdown.
Shelter supervisor Allie Small said from June to July this year, the organisation had seen a 30 per cent increase in pets being returned after being adopted or surrendered by their owners.
Melbourne’s fourth lockdown ended on June 10.
“We do often see a fluctuation in the middle of the year and towards the end of the year… but these numbers are in excess of that normal fluctuation,” Ms Small said.
In Sydney, owner of the Animal Adoption Agency Fiona Amiti said it has been through one of the busiest times in its history.
“Since this pandemic, we have gone through periods where there are no animals left in our facility for adoption. In the 21-plus years I have been running my adoption agency, I have never seen this happen before,” she said.
She has also recorded an increase in inquiries about surrenders.
“This mainly happens after the restrictions are lifted and people are returning back to work,” she said.
“They find that their animals become so attached to a lifestyle of having their owners with them 24-7 that once they return to work, the animals are simply not able to cope with being left alone.”
Ms Small said she was also concerned the number of enquiries about how to access dog behaviour-training had halved.
“It can take anywhere between three weeks to three months for a pet to settle into a new home,” she said.
“Instead of seeking any assistance or calling us for any advice, [new adopters] are just returning those animals to the shelter and saying ‘I can’t do this, this isn’t the right fit for me’.
Dogs bring comfort and joy through stressful time
Those who have taken on the responsibility of a new puppy or dog during the pandemic told ABC’s The Drum it had transformed their lives for the better.
Sydneysider Ania Bokina said her new puppy Leon helped connect her to the neighbourhood after her husband’s death.
“Walking [him] at the beginning and the end of the day has replaced my commute to work, and greatly improved it,” she said.
“Now I can’t imagine my life without him.”
Sarah Castle and Meow Ludo Meow-Meow adopted Italian greyhound Indigo and Matilda in February.
“Having the dogs with us has made lockdown so much better,” Ms Castle said.
Melbourne couple Khalid Ahmed and Amanda Farcomb brought home their groodle puppy Tugboat at the beginning of 2021.
Ms Blake said as pet owners transitioned out of lockdown, they should be mindful of the impact it could have on animals that have grown accustomed to constant company.
“They get used to having their humans around, and they love that, they live for being able to spend time with us” she said.
“So it’s really important that you take the time that dog is going to need when you are starting to transition back into normal life.”
The Drum airs weeknights on ABC and News Channel