There has been a jump in the number of pets being surrendered to Toronto shelters as people return to work following years of COVID-19 restrictions and grapple with rising costs.
Sue Shearstone, manager for shelter operations at Toronto Animal Services, said in the past six months there has been a 60 per cent increase in the number of animals coming to shelters compared to the same period in 2021.
“We have people (who) have obtained pets through the pandemic and are unable to care for them,” Shearstone said.
“They may have had to go back to work or maybe they’ve got a dog that they didn’t research the breed and don’t understand the requirements of that individual dog. So we’re seeing a lot of bigger dogs, two-to-four years old, not very well trained, maybe (with) anxiety.”
Shearstone said inflationary pressures are also a factor.
She said Toronto Animal Services continues to try to work with owners to keep their pets at home.
“We have through the pandemic, we have been trying to support people,” she said, noting that there have been programs that have provided food and resources for owners.
“If people are getting a pet, they need to consider those costs. But if they are struggling, then please reach out and we can try and provide resources where we can, for sure.”
The City of Toronto also has a mobile truck that provides microchipping, vaccines and free pet food at pop-up events.
Shearstone said there are currently waitlists for surrendering pets, and animal services works with the public to manage intakes.
“We ask that they take the time to potentially find the owner themselves for their new home, but if they’re not successful, we’ll certainly partner with them and help them and take the animal in,” she said.
“But we try to do it so that again, we’re not (taking in) an overwhelming number, it’s a manageable number, and we can get them into homes more quickly.”
Shearstone said Toronto Animal Services is also looking to the public for help in finding the animals new homes.
She encouraged potential owners to research what is needed when having a pet — from food costs, veterinarian costs to exercise levels.
Shearstone also encouraged people to consider Toronto Animal Services’ fostering program, which sees individuals take pets out of shelters for a period of time.
She said that sometimes after a short-term foster program, an individual may fall in love with the animal and keep them as a pet.