'Pandemic pets' overwhelming animal shelters with owners surrendering them in waves

Sad looking dog
Photo credit Getty Images
By , Audacy

Throughout the pandemic, with many Americans at home, the number of pet adoptions skyrocketed as furry friends became the new normal in a work-from-home setting. Now, with restrictions easing and people headed back into the office, animal shelters across the U.S. are seeing an increase in pet surrenders, leaving shelters overcrowded.

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One in five households acquired a pet during the pandemic, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Fox News reported.

Zeus' Rescue, an animal rescue in New Orleans, has seen firsthand the heartbreaking stories for animals. Seven-month-old Kaleidoscope was one of the heartbreaking stories.

"She had people playing with her 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, had all their attention," Rescue Director Michelle Ingram said to Fox News. "Now they're back at work, and she's like, 'Well, you used to play with me all day, what am I going to do?' So some undesirable behaviors came out, and therefore she got returned to us."

Now it is happening more frequently with restrictions easing and workplaces reopening.

"I have never seen numbers this high," Ingram said. "Our number of pet surrenders have quadrupled."

It has gotten to the point where Ingram cannot accept all of the animals that are being brought in. She said she is being forced to turn away 10-15 animals every day. This is something being felt across the country.

According to Ingram, the number of people who are willing to foster surrendered pets has also declined since the pandemic began, hurting shelters even more.

The number of pets now in shelters is so high that the ASPCA is monitoring the intakes closely in case it becomes a national crisis.

"We partner with hundreds of shelters throughout the country who are facing overpopulation, and we move those animals to places in the country where they have an increased chance of being adopted," Christa Chadwick, the ASPCA's vice president of shelter services, said to Fox News.

The ASPCA has relocated nearly 17,000 pets this year alone. The organization conducted a survey in May 2021 showed that 90% of new dog and 85% of new cat owners still have their pets in their home and do not plan on relocating them.

"People and pets are better when they're together," Chadwick said. "So all of us should do what we can to make sure those relationships are sustained even during the most stressful of times."

With the world returning to normal, many have realized that they could not take care of the animals that seemed like a good decision to adopt last June in isolation. Sadly the pets will pay the ultimate price if it's determined there is overpopulation.

"At the end of the day, when the rescues are full, and people aren't adopting because they're finally going on vacation or [animals] are being returned to us, you have pet overpopulation," Ingram said. "The unfortunate consequence to that is euthanasia of highly adoptable pets."