Pandemic creates surge in pet adoptions

KAYLA SYLVESTER

Pet shelters and animal rescues around Queensland say there has been a significant increase in animal adoptions since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, as well as an increase in the number of people donating their time to animal welfare.

RSPCA worker

Foster caring is an essential part of the animal adoption system, helping open more space in shelters for new animals to be rescued. Photo: Courtesy RSPCA QLD

 

While this may sound like positive news, animal welfare groups are concerned that recently adopted fur friends might be forgotten about once things start to go ‘back to normal’.

Redland City Council said their analytics found there was a significant increase in the number of animal adoptions during the pandemic, as well as a decrease in the number of animals impounded at Redland Animal Shelter during that time.

“During March, April and May this year, the number of animals impounded at Redland Animal Shelter reduced by 42 per cent compared with the months of September, October and November 2019,” a Council spokesperson said.

“From March to May 2020, most animals were adopted on the same day they were advertised,” the spokesperson said.

The Redland City Council spokesperson also said the Redland Animal Shelter noticed increased generosity from the public during the COVID-19 lockdown period earlier this year.

“Over this period, increased donations of pet supplies, such as blankets, towels and pet food, were received by the shelter from members of the Redlands Coast community,” the spokesperson said.

“There was also increased interest from the community to volunteer at the shelter.”

Business developer and corporate sponsorship manager for animal rescue Deathrow Unchained, Emily Daly, said their team were surprised by the lower numbers of animal surrenders during the pandemic, as they had predicted there would actually be an increase in animals given up during that period.

“I believe our team feared domestic surrenders will rise because people could no longer commit financially to the care of an animal, but we saw a completely different outcome,” Ms Daly said.

“We saw an increase in foster care applications and had been told by many local shelters that animal adoption rates had increased,” she said.

“We did, sadly, see an increase in horses looking for homes; these animals are usually the first to be impacted, purely due to the cost of maintaining such an animal.”

RSPCA Queensland spokesperson Michael Beaty said he had also found that adoption success rates soared during the lockdown period and said the organisation had also seen an increased interest in foster carer applications during that time.

“At one point we had over 3000 people expressing interest in becoming foster carers in four days… so that was extraordinary,” Mr Beaty said.

“A lot of the people who became foster carers would become what we call failed foster carers, because they ended up adopting the animals they were looking after,” he said.

Animal adoption

Animal shelters say increased numbers of people adopted or fostered animals during lockdown in Queensland. Photo: Courtesy RSPCA QLD

 

Foster caring programs are a fundamental part of the animal adoption system, because they help reduce overcrowding in shelters and open up more space for new animals to be helped.

They also help prepare animals for being adopted out by socialising them and giving them a chance to overcome any trauma they may have experienced in the past.

“We get a lot of animals, and many animals have to go through court proceedings, so we can always do with more foster carers,” Mr Beaty said.

“Without foster carers and volunteers, we couldn’t survive, so we are always looking for them,” he said.

Nineteen-year-old Nikki Kuhn adopted her new best friend during isolation from Queensland’s A Minnie Rescue, but said it wasn’t an impulse decision and was something she had been considering for a while.

“I had wanted another pet for ages and since my whole family was at home, we thought it was the perfect time as we would be able to give it our full attention,” Ms Kuhn said.

“It was lovely to have another companion during the hectic experience of isolating at home,” she said.

“The adoption process went really smoothly and was a great experience.”

“I applied online and had to fill out various forms and do an online property check, the only in-person aspect was doing a meet-up with the foster carer so she could see if I’d be a good fit and so I could meet my kitten in person.”

Ms Kuhn said she recommended doing lots of research into caring for a pet and looking into multiple animal rescues before adopting a pet.

“I would 100 per cent recommend adopting a fur baby and giving an animal a loving home,” she said.

“However, my tips would be to research different rescue organisations to find the one that suits you the most, and to make sure you prepare to have everything you need to give your animal a comfortable and easy transition from the rescue to your home.”

Deathrow Unchained Animal Rescue’s founder, Kate Bijkerk, said she was concerned there would be another spike in animal surrenders as things continued to go ‘back to normal’ in Queensland.

“We have noticed a dramatic drop in animal surrenders in the shelters over the pandemic, specifically the dogs and cats, which is a great thing, but unfortunately what comes with that is impulsive adoptions,” Ms Bijkerk said.

“Since COVID restrictions have started to lift, we are looking at a big potential spike of people returning impulsive adoptions back in the pound, generally speaking, but fingers crossed they don’t,” she said.

Michael Beatty said the RSPCA had not noticed an increase in animal adoptions yet, but said they couldn’t rule it out completely.

“There’s normally a four per cent turnaround of people surrendering animals within the one-month probation period that don’t quite fit in with their home, so other than that we haven’t seen a spike in surrenders so far,” Mr Beatty said.

However, Mr Beatty said adopting a pet was a serious commitment and said people should never impulsively adopt an animal.

“You need to look for a pet that will fit in with your lifestyle; it’s like, if you get a breed like a cattle dog or something they need a lot of exercise to be happy, so keep that in mind and research into the breed and having a pet,” Mr Beatty said.

“You have to be able to commit, not just emotionally, but financially as well.”

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