In March of last year, at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, national pet adoption rates soared from 58% to 85%. Stay at home orders gave people more free time and less to do with it so many decided to become pet owners. Now that stay-at-home orders are a thing of the past many of those that adopted pets last year are returning them to shelters.
“We have had a lot of returns and owner surrenders this year,” says Lee Turbert, of the Montgomery Humane Society. One of the reasons people are returning pets to the shelter is “a lot of animals have separation anxiety,” Turbert says. Now that owners have returned to work they sometimes come home to find their pet has caused damage or made a mess in the home and they decide to take the pet to the shelter. An alternative according to Turbert is the shelters ‘doggy daycare program’ so that the animal isn't left alone all day, or adopting a second pet “because when they're together they don't have that anxiety.”
According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) over 6 million animals enter shelters in the U.S. each year and only half of that number are adopted. In view of this the humane society suggests “rehoming” a pet with another owner instead of surrendering it to the shelter. Also, for owners who prefer to keep their pet but are having trouble taking care of it the shelter has an intervention program that assists with pet food, vet bills, dog houses and more. “We do everything we can to help them before they surrender the animal,” Turbert says.
Sarah Smith, Rector of Grace Episcopal Church, recently visited the shelter for a ‘blessing of the animals’ ceremony. “We did one at the church and the next day went out to the humane society and did one there,” she says. The reason for the visit and the blessing according to Smith is, “so that they would be healthy and well and also to spotlight the animals that are there and hopefully it gets the word out that they need homes.” This was the church's first visit to the shelter though they have done the ceremony at the church before.
Turbert says there is no time limit on how long an animal can remain at the shelter. “As long as they are healthy and not aggressive. If we can fix them and take care of them then they are up for adoption until they find a home.”
For those who have decided to surrender a pet, need to take a stray animal to the shelter, or are looking to adopt an appointment is required due to the pandemic and staffing shortages. The humane society shelter is open 7 days a week and is located at 1150 John Overton Drive, just off of Congressman Dickinson Drive. For more information visit montgomeryhumane.com or call 334-409-0622