News and Media

Shelters remind owners that pets are for life, not just for lockdown

May 27, 2020

By Carolyn Webb, The Age

May 27, 2020

When Erin Kanygin went to adopt a pet at the Lost Dogs Home, she was intimidated by rottweiler-kelpie cross Barkley.

‘‘He’s quite a big dog’’, she says, referring to his muscly, 30-kilogram frame at just 10 months old.

And he did end up bowling her over – with charm. ‘‘He was friendly and super gentle,’’ says Ms Kanygin, 31.

‘‘He took about 15 seconds to size me up and then he brought me a toy and we started playing and that was that.”

Ms Kanygin’s 94-year-old grandmother in Montreal is recovering from COVID-19 and Ms Kanygin says having Barkley “has kept me sane and grounded”.

With her friends, ‘‘he’ll go to every person to greet them, play with them and let them pat him. He’s quite a social butterfly’’.

Ms Kanygin is one of the many people who have used having to work from home during the COVID-19 outbreak as the perfect excuse to buy a dog or cat.

But animal advocates are warning that pets are for life, not just for COVID-19.

Gemma Dunham, shelter manager of Second Chance Animal Rescue in Craigieburn, said for the first time in the centre’s 10 years no dogs are available for adoption.

Two weeks ago a 10-year-old Jack Russell dog drew more than 200 applications to adopt him in 12 hours and last week 160 people applied to adopt six kittens.

Lost Dogs Home media manager Suzana Talevski said so far in May there had been 418 adoptions compared with 319 in May 2019.

‘‘We have had cases where some dogs are getting approximately 100 applications each,’’ Ms Talevski said.

She said loneliness and companionship were among reasons for the spike.

‘‘Numerous studies have indicated animals are incredible at lifting the spirits of those around them, and in trying times such as a lockdown period, they have become an incredible source of comfort.’’

Elle Ammann, media manager at Animal Aid, said the number of adoptions between March 1 and May 26 rose from 632 last year to 778 this year.

Animal Aid’s cattery has been emptied by sales twice this month, unprecedented in the organisation’s 70 years.

Ms Ammann said that more spare time and the inability to go anywhere coupled with new rental laws which allow more people to have pets have all contributed to the rise in pet ownership.

But Ms Dunham fears that in a few months, after people have gone back to the office, there will be ‘‘an increase in surrenders and returns’’ of animals.

Bored and anxious dogs left alone could start escaping or barking ‘‘and that could be a reason for people to surrender their animal to the pound’’.

To those thinking of adopting, Ms Dunham said: ‘‘it’s great that you’re working from home now, but is an animal going to fit into your lifestyle when you’re not home?’’

Ms Kanygin expects to return to the office by August but is training Barkley to be alone for hours.

She intends to employ a dog walker, and her housemates will often be home.

But she said people should carefully consider buying a pet. ‘‘It wasn’t a decision made lightly or impulsively.’’