Abandoned puppies, Shih Tzu rescue in Niagara underscore ‘commitment’ of pet ownership

Click to play video: 'High cost of living hitting pet owners hard'
High cost of living hitting pet owners hard
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The Humane Society of Greater Niagara (HSGN) is grateful for the thousands of dollars raised so far as it continues to nurse a young Shih Tzu back to health after the malnourished dog was dropped off at its St. Catharines, Ont., shelter over the holidays.

The small dog’s plight is an example of some sad story local pet refuges have been sharing recently across Southern Ontario over the holidays.

Tanya Firmage, HSGN’s director, says Shih Tzu “Gary” was dropped off in “deplorable condition” and in dire need of medical attention for severe skin and ear infections.

The canine, believed to be just one or two years old, was delivered to the humane society on Christmas Eve and required immediate veterinary care.

“An unnamed, very, very special veterinarian left a Christmas party to come and assess and begin treatment of this dog, which was very kind and definitely something we needed to have happen right away,” Firmage said.

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She said not a lot is known about Gary’s history, and urged anyone with knowledge of his background to come forward.

As of Wednesday morning, the fundraiser for Gary had amassed just under $6,000.

Peer shelter the Niagara SPCA and Humane Society has also reached out for donations after acquiring several abandoned Shar-Pei puppies from a parking lot on the Niagara River Parkway last week.

The agency says the pups were found by a passerby in “rough condition,”  all with body temperatures too low to be measured.

Niagara Parks Police say not much is known about the Shar-Pei case and they’re also seeking information from the public about the pups, characterizing the occurrence as “animal cruelty.”

John Greer, executive director of the Niagara SPCA and Humane Society, said abandonment is something it saw around six or seven times over the past year with the most “disheartening” aspect being the animals dumped in places where people don’t typically go.

Greer said the society had 60 dogs and 77 cats in its care this holiday season, up a combined eight more than the same time last year.

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Affordability has been a common factor with animal surrenders in recent times, according to the two Niagara shelters and the Hamilton-Burlington SPCA (HBSPCA).

Greer says the “biggest thing” he hears regularly is how “out of reach” the cost of veterinary care has become for some pet owners.

“Veterinarians are just very, very expensive for people with the economy the way it is,” Greer suggested.

“We’ve heard numbers of people coming through our doors on some things … the vet wants them to get done, and it’s in the thousands of dollars and people just literally don’t have that.”

Michelle Macnab, director of community outreach and animal programs for the HBSPCA, said many narratives her group is hearing have underscored how much of a commitment is needed in owning a pet.

“It’s a very big commitment,” Macnab said.

“We understand that circumstances certainly arise where it doesn’t work out, but we want to have those conversations well in advance, and make sure everybody’s prepared. You need to be making sure your schedule is going to align with bringing home a new pet.”

This past year, a study found that dog owners typically spend between $1,395 and $4,270 upfront, not including potential thousands in surprise costs like emergency vet bills, dental cleanings and pet insurance.

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The annual cost of owning a kitten is approximately $3,378 to $3,538 a year, according to the Ontario Veterinary Medical Association.

But despite those numbers, Macnab said the HBSPCA has been seeing pets “moving” to new owners even though the shelter has been “fuller” than usual.

“So things are definitely taking a little bit longer to move out of our shelter into their forever home, but, we’re still seeing those really great adoptions happening,” Macnab said.

She echoes what her fellow Niagara executives say about the “really, really big commitment” pets can be for a family’s time and finances, and that much of both are required.

“We want to make sure that the person who’s adopting the pet is well aware of all of those implications and parameters that go around with owning a pet,” Macnab said.

“Especially if you’ve got a dog — you know, taking the dog out for a walk, taking the dog out to go to the washroom, all of that kind of fun stuff.”

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