The COVID-19 pandemic has forced governments to declare states of emergency and impose lockdowns around the world. These lockdowns were for the greater good, in the interest of preserving and protecting public health. However, they have had important repercussions in other areas of social life.
Over the past two years, lockdowns and social distancing measures have ushered in an era of increased loneliness and isolation. To cope with the challenges of this dramatic overnight change, many Canadians have seen adopting a pet as a way to bring some social warmth into their homes.
In fact, adoption rates at the Oakville and Milton Humane Society have skyrocketed.
Stephanie Aleksich, customer service manager at OMHS, said that “as soon as we put an animal up for adoption, it leaves just as quickly. We thought that once things gradually returned to normal, adoption rates would slow.” down. They did not do it”.
Adopting a pet can definitely be a great way to cope with isolation. There’s no bond quite like the one a person forges with their loyal furry companion.
However, it can be just as easy to underestimate the effort and expense involved in properly caring for a pet.
The OMHS has also seen an increase in animal abandonment rates – people abandoning pets at the shelter.
Mr. Aleksich says people give up pets for a variety of reasons. Often the animals were obtained privately through a breeder or a classifieds website like Kijiji or Craigslist. These animals sometimes have behavioral or medical issues that went unnoticed – or unspoken – at the time of purchase. Unwilling to bear the time and money invested in caring for them, the new owners abandon them at the shelter.
Another problem that often arises – especially during the pandemic – is that of inappropriate socialization. Pets, especially dogs, need to be socialized, with humans and other animals, in order to lead healthy lives. During times of social distancing, this has proven difficult for new pet owners.
Fortunately, the OMHS employs a professional dog trainer, as well as licensed veterinary technicians, to deal with behavioral and medical issues.
Mr. Aleksich notes that the cost of providing this care is increasing every day. “To anyone who wants to have an immediate impact on an animal’s life, please consider making a donation at omhs.ca/donate,” she said.
She also provides advice to future adopters wishing to entrust them with an animal.
“Do your research before getting a pet. Make sure you’re prepared, personally and financially, for the responsibilities of owning a pet,” she says. “Also, be realistic about your lifestyle and energy level. If you’re a couch potato, don’t adopt an animal that needs a lot of exercise.”
She also noted the importance of planning ahead, as a household, to welcome the new furry family member. “If you plan to get married or have children, will your pet still get the care and love it needs and deserves?” she asked.
When restrictions begin to be lifted and the community regains a sense of normalcy, the social life of Oakville residents will regain its lost agency. The four-legged friends who have helped citizens through lonelier times, however, still need proper care. They are, like humans, social creatures.