YORK COUNTY, Pa. (WHTM) – “Animal shelters prepare for surrender,” warned a June 24, 2020 headline in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.
“I understand why they would think that,” Steven Martinez, executive director of the York County SPCA, said Tuesday of expert predictions and public perceptions, based on stories of individuals abandoning their pets. then (for example) they would start going to the office again.
“If they’ve heard of people abandoning their pets, it’s just an anecdotal data point,” Martinez said. “But that doesn’t really represent a bigger trend that we’re seeing at the local level or even at the national level.”
In fact, the local trend is exactly the opposite: The York County SPCA – which, like many shelters, adopted almost all of their animals at the start of the pandemic – has received 24 returned pets so far in 2021. , compared to 36 during the same period. period (from January 1 to May 11) in 2020.
National organizations corroborated the local data.
“We are not aware of any data to support this is a trend,” said Kirsten Peek, media relations manager for the Humane Society of the United States, of reports of surrender of animals. “Our understanding is that these reports are anecdotal. “
“Based on our conversations with animal welfare professionals and shelters across the country, this trend is currently not evident at the national level,” said the American Society for the Prevention of cruelty to animals) in a statement issued by a spokesperson. (The full statement is below.)
To be clear: people are abandon animals – but not, according to available data, in greater numbers than usual. Pandemic or no pandemic, Martinez said abandoning an animal is the last resort and can often be avoided by calling a shelter like his.
“Often the challenges people face can be overcome with just the education, practice, resources and training that we are able to provide,” he said.
Even shelter workers, some of them staying in their homes at the start of the pandemic, couldn’t resist one or two pet adoptions. Tiffany Franck, director of development for the York County SPCA but not (before the pandemic) pet owner, wanted a cat. Her husband, Ethan Pfautz – working in a different industry but by her side at home – had a soft spot for dogs. The compromise ?
“We first met our raven cat in April 2020, then Penny came to join us in July,” she said, pointing to the couple’s dog. She says the four of them are happy together.
Martinez said that while the idea that surrenders would increase seemed plausible, the reality is just as easy to understand – precisely because of the length of the pandemic.
“People have been managing the transition to their homes for 14 months,” he said. “This animal is now part of their life. So they’re not going to fire a family member.
Here is the full statement from the ASPCA:
We are not seeing an increase in owner abandonments at the ASPCA New York Adoption Center, and based on our conversations with animal welfare professionals and shelters across the country, this trend is currently not not evident at the national level. We attribute this to the fact that even though animal shelters and rescue organizations have adjusted their adoption policies during the pandemic, they continue to have conversations with adopters to make sure they are having good matches and that pets fit the lifestyle of their adopters, even when those owners revert to a post-pandemic schedule. We encourage any pet owner who is considering adopting their pet to contact the shelter or rescue organization they have worked with so staff can provide advice and assistance.
In the first year of the pandemic, the ASPCA has seen a 64% increase in the number of animals placed in foster homes thanks to our New York City foster program and we expect what foster families will continue to play an important role in supporting shelters in New York and across the country. We hope shelters can build on this heartwarming response from enthusiastic host families for any landlord abandonment they may receive. As there is always a risk that pet owners will not be able to provide adequate care for their animals during any crisis or disaster, it is important that people, shelters and communities prepare for anything. the consequences on animal welfare that could result from this ongoing crisis. .
– ASPCA statement