Parks Canada has issued a plea for people to stop abandoning their pets and exotic animals after a three-fold increase at Rouge National Urban Park in recent years.
In a statement to Global News, the government agency says in addition to domestic dogs, park staff are seeing rabbits, cats, reptiles and other exotic wildlife being left behind.
In mid-November, local rescue organization Team Chelsea tracked and captured a husky that had been on the loose for roughly a month. They received reports the dog was set loose on the Woodland Trail, where it remained before travelling beyond park boundaries.
Stu Johnson with Team Chelsea says they were eventually able to capture it when it strayed into a golf course in York Region, though the problem isn’t unique to Rouge National Urban Park.
“We’ve had some situations where people think it’s OK to drop their dog in its crate on a back road in Durham Region, along with all its belongings,” Johnson told Global News.
On Nov. 10, park staff found the remains of a small- to medium-sized domestic dog, along with its mat, food and other items. The dog is believed to have been left by its owner, eventually succumbing to starvation and exposure to the bitter cold.
“Pets and domestic animals that previously relied on owners to care for them and provide food and shelter are not equipped to survive in the wild. These animals can also carry and pass diseases, parasites and viruses to native species,” read the statement.
Stu Johnson tells Global News that one major concern is people who purchased pets during the pandemic who can no longer care for them. Another is backyard breeders releasing animals into the wild.
He recommends that those who happen upon an abandoned pet contact their local animal services or animal rescue organization.
Hannah Sotropa with the Toronto Humane Society says from 2016 to 2020, around 30 per cent of surrenders were related to medical issues with the animals, and their owner’s ability to access proper care.
“We really encourage you to reach out to those who are equipped to handle these types of situations, who can take the animal and possibly rehome them,” she said to those feeling overwhelmed or unable to keep their pets.