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Pet surrenders on the rise in Flamborough and beyond


Animal Adoptions of Flamborough president Pam Hasketh spends time with one of the cats at the Center Road shelter.

  • Source: Hamilton Animal Services

Cities in southern Ontario, like Guelph and Toronto, are reporting a high number of pet surrenders. And so too is Flamborough.

Locally, most of the surrender requests being considered by Animal Adoptions of Flamborough (AAF) are coming from owners facing untenable life-altering situations and may not necessarily be pandemic related.

“We’re getting a higher percentage than we ordinarily do,” said AAF present Pam Hesketh of the spike in numbers, adding “an illness-related surrender request is the biggest percentage we’re seeing.”

The Center Road facility sees many individuals and families turn to the shelter for support after temporarily caring for a stray cat. Hesketh explained people provided food for the cats but can’t keep them and need the support of the shelter to find the animals a forever home.

So far this year, AAF has taken in roughly 85 kittens and 85 cats, with an uptick in the number of intakes starting in mid-spring. However, the shelter couldn’t take in all surrendered felines. In some cases, it’s because the cats were feral, in others they were waitlisted, too ill or the shelter was at capacity.

The organization also had 30 requests for canine surrenders, and of those AAF has been able to take in six dogs, which are in foster homes. Hesketh believes about half of those requests are a result of people returning to work full-time or getting a new job, meaning they are “not around enough to pay attention to the dogs anymore.”

Separation anxiety is another common reason for canine surrenders. And it’s typically the larger breeds with behaviour-related issues that are being given up, said Hesketh, who can’t be sure if that is pandemic related or whether guardians are in over their heads with a breed they didn’t properly research before bringing the animal home.

Hamilton Animal Services has also seen an increase in surrenders. It’s something the shelter anticipated, said Michelle Shantz, the city’s senior communications officer.

The city “did anticipate some pet owners would not be able to or want to keep their animals once residents began physically going back to work,” she said.

While it has worked to educate potential pet owners, Hamilton Animal Services halted its adoption program at the onset of the pandemic to accommodate surrenders as well as “emergency boarding due to COVID patients going into the hospital.”

The situation isn’t all negative, however.

Like at most veterinary clinics during the pandemic, Watzin Veterinary Clinic saw an uptick in new clients, including first-time pet owners, said Dr. Sandra Watzin.

“We were worried after the pandemic whether a lot of these pets would be either returned or surrendered,” she said, but the team at the Hamilton Street North veterinary clinic was pleasantly surprised. “In our clinic we don’t feel that’s what is happening,” said Watzin.

Their clients, who hail from Flamborough, Burlington and surrounding areas, “are very dedicated to their pets and they’re retaining their pets.”

At AAF, the staff and volunteers anticipated a higher number of surrenders after the influx of households welcoming pandemic pets.

“We did expect that yes,” said Hesketh. “A lot of people, they sincerely want the pet, they sincerely believe it’s the right thing, but they haven’t necessarily thought of the long-term implications through.”

While she has heard of shelters being inundated with pandemic pet surrender requests, it isn’t the case in Flamborough.

“I hope it stays that way,” said Hesketh.

“In general, what we’re hearing is that everybody is getting just slammed with surrender requests. The whys and details behind them we’re not hearing so much.”


STORY BEHIND THE STORY: After hearing reports of shelters in southern Ontario struggling to accommodate a higher volume of animal surrenders, we wanted to know if local organizations were in the same boat and the reason for any influx.

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