As families return their plague pups in droves, animal rescue organizations are swamped.
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The dissatisfaction was palpable on Instagram:
Jessica Mellen-Graaf of the Philly Bully Team dog rescue said, I have never seen this many people wanting to dump their pets.
Her rescue squad, which was already overburdened, had received 20 requests in 48 hours from owners who wanted to surrender their dogs.
She stated, We knew this could happen. I just don't believe we expected it to be this horrible.
The near-emptying of the nation's animal shelters in the early months of COVID-19 was one of the few bright spots in an otherwise bleak period. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, almost 23 million American families adopted a pet during the epidemic.
However, as the pandemic restrictions have eased, many people are returning to work or discovering that COVID has changed their lives in various ways.
Animal rights activists are now scrambling to locate foster homes for abandoned dogs. Adoption is becoming less popular. Local organizations say they're getting a lot of inquiries from people who want to get rid of pets they don't want or can't maintain.
Marta Gambone of Phoenix Animal Rescue in Chester Springs stated, "It's challenging right now.
Pet rescues and shelters assist people who are forced to surrender their dogs due to financial difficulties, but Gambone and other activists claim that many of the surrenders they're seeing lately are a different story.
They're canines like Nate, a one-year-old German Shepherd who was recently surrendered to Phoenix by his family.
He's as smart as a whip and a wonderful dog, but they gave him up because they don't have time for him, according to Gambone. He's unquestionably a COVID puppy that someone purchased, and now that the folks have gone back to work, they don't want to deal with him.
Many of these "COVID dogs" are large breeds, which has made it difficult for animal shelters and rescues around the country to foster or find homes, especially now.
People buy puppies because they are attractive, but that puppy grows up to be a 100-pound Mastiff or Boerboel, according to Gambone. We've seen a lot of dogs that aren't the proper fit being returned because they're growing too big and becoming destructive at home because they aren't getting enough exercise.
Angelica Giunta, president of Philly Rescue Angels, recently assisted a dog owner who was unable to keep his young husky mix.
The husky's owner, a Philadelphia professional who did not want to be identified, stated, "My life circumstances altered."
Giunta identified a husky rescue that was willing to assist in finding that dog a new home. No such luck for a young father-son shepherd combo who had been abandoned by their previous owner.
The rescues are overflowing. I despise having to rely on others for help. Giunta stated, "I understand how they feel." Right now, I'm at capacity.
Many of these surrenders are due to a lack of training, according to Mellen-Graaf of the Philly Bully Team and other pet advocates. This is a fixable problem that some organizations will even assist with.
A lot of what we're seeing is individuals battling with separation anxiety in their pets, which makes sense, according to Mellen-Graaf. They were always at home when they bought these dogs. They didn't teach the dogs to be alone, and they didn't bother to cage train them. People are now leaving their homes more frequently, and they are witnessing the worry they unwittingly created.
Many new owners couldn't find a trainer during COVID because they couldn't afford one or didn't know how to do it themselves. Many of these pets had behavioral issues.
As a joyful, sociable puppy, Freddie Mercury, a young brown pit bull mix with gorgeous chestnut eyes and huge, stick-up ears, was adopted from the Philly Bully Team. He was, however, returned to the shelter as a highly undersocialized young dog. Freddie's board and train program was paid for by the rescue.
Mellen-Graaf said he had to relearn structure and boundaries, something he hadn't been taught as a puppy when he was adopted.
She went on to say that he is now seeking for a place to live. He's a good young man.
As difficult as things are for private shelters and rescues, the situation at Philly ACCT, Philadelphia's open intake shelter, where the objective is to take all dogs brought in and where owner surrenders are at an all-time high, is on a whole other level.
Every day is a game of musical chairs, and the price is sometimes the lives of these creatures, according to Sarah Barnett, ACCT's acting co-executive director. "We're having to timestamp (euthanize) dogs that I never thought we'd have to because these were dogs we hoped would leave — thought would be adopted."
"My colleague walked outside last Monday and there was a line," Barnett added. "She stated that it appeared to be a Black Friday sale." "It was for surrenders," says the narrator.
According to the director, open admission shelters around the country are at capacity. ACCT recently hosted over 120 dogs in a facility designed for only 70. Longer stays are becoming more common, but there aren't enough foster homes or room in rescues and private shelters to accommodate more ACCT dogs.
ACCT strives to avoid pet surrender by assisting owners in keeping their pets — for example, by offering to pay for veterinary care or training sessions — but lately, many people appear to be less receptive.
People have truly reached their breaking point, according to Barnett. There are a variety of challenges that are causing people to reach their breaking point and no longer be as open to support or assistance as they once were. Meanwhile, as service demands have increased, ACCT has battled with financial cuts.
That's why, whether it's fostering, adopting, or volunteering, everyone is reaching out to the public, according to Barnett. “Anything.”
For example, ACCT frequently waives adoption expenses. Many shelters and rescue organizations also provide assistance with veterinary care, training, and other requirements.
The Barkfast Club, a vibrant gang of young pittie mixes – Taz, Ty, Lexie, Lily, Leo, and Ravioli — may be found at the Pennsylvania SPCA's Philadelphia branch. Behavior training sessions are included in the adoption of any of these high-energy dogs.
Maddie Bernstein, the PSPCA's Philadelphia manager of lifesaving, says they've been getting at least ten surrender requests every day, rather than the usual one to three.
Bernstein, echoing other shelter administrators, noted that cats are still finding homes. Dogs, with their higher care requirements, are having a more difficult time.
Normally, this is the slowest time of year for animal surrenders. Summer is frequently when foster homes and adopters are limited, due to vacations and other plans.
But now it's crowded everywhere, according to Philly Bully Team's Mellen-Graaf.
Her Philly Bully Team, like many others, has accepted puppies from so-called high-kill shelters, which are animal shelters, often in the South, where dogs are housed for a short time and euthanasia is common. However, there has recently been a scarcity of space for unwanted neighborhood pets.
I recently received a text from one of our South Carolina shelter partners, asking if I could take a litter of puppies.
I don't know where I'm going to put them. But if they're going to be put down, I have no choice but to take them. I'm afraid I won't be able to refuse. They're puppies, after all.
What should I do?
She said, I'll find them somewhere to go.
She simply didn't know where to look.