By Samantha Ashley
Local rescuers and animal shelter workers collectively fear the growing number of animals in shelters will lead to more euthanasia, abandonment cases along with negative behavioral and emotional effects to animals.
During the early stages of the COVID-19 lockdown, many citizens adopted dogs and cats to cope with the unprecedented times. So much so that animal shelters and rescues were emptied out.
The demand to adopt or rescue dogs was so high during the lockdown that, at one point, shelters and rescues struggled to supply the demand.
However, with the reopening of cities across the nation, pet abandonment cases and owner surrenders have filled shelters and rescues with animals.
“People wanted dogs like crazy. We could not keep dogs in the rescue,” said Jennifer Williams, founder and CEO of Second Chances Rescue in Norco.
Shelters and rescue organizations in Riverside County have experienced a reflective surge due to people no longer willing to house pets as work, school and timing strain their commitment.
Williams estimates the current state of adoptions numbers went from 80% adoptions to 20% surrender rates in the early pandemic, as opposed to 95% surrenders to a 5% adoption rate post-reopening of cities.
“Dogs are not disposable,” Williams said.
She urged those who participated in the mass pandemic adoption to search for alternatives to abandoning pets in the streets, roads or parks.
“Figure out an alternative to rehoming and ask a rescue for help,” Williams said. “Right now, there are not enough homes for the amount of dogs.”
The abandonment of pets has led to an influx of stray animals across cities, creating strenuous work for animal shelters and their workers.
“Dogs that are coming back to shelters because people are going back to work or have been left on the streets have severe separation anxiety and trust issues,” said an affiliate from a Riverside animal shelter who wished to remain anonymous. “Puppies and kitties grow up to be dogs and cats and will need forever homes, not just during a pandemic.”
Some in the animal care field say that the public does not understand the feelings and well-being of the animals.
“Our shelter is usually full, however, the amount of people passing off their pandemic dogs as strays is heartbreaking,” said another affiliate from a Riverside animal shelter who wished to remain anonymous. “Animals have feelings.”
Yet, Daniel Pacheco, Animal Services Enforcement supervisor for the Corona Police Department, denied the abnormal influx of animals.
“We have not noticed a drastic or significant difference — rehoming and adoptions usually come in waves,” Pacheco said in an email.
He said the usual spikes in adoption happen during the holidays and that the sole impact the COVID-19 pandemic had on animal shelters was that it limited public contact for several months.
Pacheco said adoption and licensing for pets still occurred through the pandemic by appointment only and that there was no interest in adopting or fostering pets in regards to the pandemic.
No further interviews were conducted at Corona City animal shelters per Pacheco’s request.