Shelters worry about the fate of recently adopted animals

Will ‘pandemic pets’ have a furever home if things return to normal?

Employees of Winnipeg’s animal shelters are worried for the future of the many pets adopted during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Animal shelters in Winnipeg noticed a significant increase in adoptions in early 2020 after COVID-19 restrictions limited human interaction. Many shelters have changed their regulations and adoption procedures, but many Winnipeg residents are still searching for furry companions.

Animal shelters across the city report low numbers of animals, and some say their shelters were empty over the holidays.

The Winnipeg Humane Society posted on social media to announce that the Homes for the Holidays campaign, which involved reduced adoption fees for December, was so successful that the shelter only had two cats left.

“We’ve made this effort to get the animals adopted out before the holidays,” Lenore Hume, the communications strategist at the Winnipeg Humane Society, says. “The animals deserve a home over the holidays, but it also gives our staff a bit of a break.”

D’Arcy Johnston, owner of D’Arcy’s ARC (Animal Rescue Centre), believes dogs are being adopted more often than cats because of the need to get out of the house (for walks), even during a pandemic.

“As human beings, we are told to socially distance and told to stay away, stay home. People have more time to dedicate to this animal, so they come down to adopt. They’re looking for that companionship,” Johnston says. “It also gives them an excuse to go outside and breathe in the fresh air.”

Although animal adoptions have been successful during the pandemic, shelter owners worry about what will happen to the animals when people get busy again.

Craig Street Cats founder Lynne Scott says it has been great to have fewer animals in the shelter, since there is a limited number of volunteers on site due to the current Manitoba COVID-19 restrictions. However, she worries about the future for these pandemic pets.  

“I fear that, as people get back to work and live their regular lives, many of the animals adopted will be stuck at home. Or they get returned, surrendered to the shelter or worse,” Scott says.

If there is a surge in surrendered animals, shelters may not have the funds, resources or ability to care for them.

“Right now, we have fewer volunteers working because of the pandemic and less money and resources available to look after all of these animals,” Johnston says. “All the resources that were available to us 10 months ago are no longer there, so I can’t fill up the shelter to capacity.”

Despite the surge in adoptions, many shelters still struggle with funding. To continue caring for Winnipeg’s animals, shelters have to stay open, and they depend on donations.

“People are donating less, and I think it is because they are holding onto their money, but we are down 60 per cent in donations, which is a huge drop to our charity,” Johnston says.

Even with a drop in donations, shelters are preparing to bring in more animals in the new year.

“When the shelters open again, they will be filled again in no time. There’ll be animals looking for homes, as there always (are),” Hume says.

Published in Volume 75, Number 14 of The Uniter (January 14, 2021)

Related Reads