Shelters brace for ‘selfish’ return of pandemic pets

Prepare for the big dog dump.

At the height of the pandemic, animal shelters reported a record number of adoptions, as annoyed residents searched for new four-legged friends to keep them company in lockdown. But with reopens underway, the same shelters are being prepared for an influx of pets due to an epidemic of buyer remorse across the country.

“People can be very selfish,” Penny Smith-Berk, owner of Rescue Right animal shelter in Bedford, NY, told the Post. “Life is opening up again. You can impulsively buy a pair of shoes and never wear them again, but there are consequences for a dog – it’s excruciatingly sad. “

Many new dog owners bit more than they could chew during the pandemic. Now Smith-Berk has said: “People like me are left to take over, because a lot of people raise their hands and say, ‘I can’t do this.'”

Last week, she spent extra time with Blue, a recently returned 100-pound Cane Corso. His owners – who spent thousands of dollars on him at a pet store – admitted taking care of him was too much work and ended the job after just eight months.

The owner of the shelter, Penny Smith-Berk, said she had to "take over" after the dogs were thrown at her.
Shelter owner Penny Smith-Berk said she had to “take over” after dogs were thrown at her.
Annie Wermiel / NY Post

“They impulsively got him as a puppy… Everyone was home back then and it seemed like a good idea to have their kids entertained, but now their kids are back to school,” Smith said. -Berk, adding that Blue was clearly “depressed” after being hit on the curb.

And she fears for the fate of the other dogs who are the victims of this frantic questioning. “I’m quite sure animal shelters see a lot of owners surrendering, who are the first dogs to be euthanized,” Smith-Berk said. “I am concerned that a large number of dogs are losing their lives as a result of this.”

Earlier this week, Fox 35 News aired a segment describing a shelter in Sanford, Florida that recently saw a large influx of pet returns. And the problem goes beyond the United States alone – Bloomberg Quicktake found that the same heartbreaking trend can be seen across the pond, too.

“I think that will happen as people go back to the office, people will also start to think about taking a vacation,” said Peter Laurie, managing director of Battersea Dogs & Cats Home in London, in response to news that dogs and cats at local shelters had doubled in recent months.

Dog trainer Jessica Del Guercio with "relocated" Penny doodle mix.
Dog trainer Jessica Del Guercio with Penny ‘re-homed’ doodle mix.
Courtesy of

Jessica Del Guercio, a dog trainer based in Greenwich, Connecticut, said she witnesses the same among her well-heeled clients.

Del Guercio, who charges more than $ 5,000 to train a dog and has seen a huge increase in business throughout the pandemic, told the Post that overwhelmed owners are now throwing in the towel. “They’re like, ‘I’m going to Kennebunkport – I don’t want to bring my dog,’” she said.

The founder of Greenwich paws said people were making emotional decisions during the lockdown, but the realities of pet ownership may be sobering. “People say, ‘We’re going to buy all these puppies because we have nothing to do.’ They assume it’s easy, but they haven’t had a dog since they were children.

Now, “I know at least a dozen dogs personally,” Del Guercio said, and she has “relocated” a handful of dogs herself. And the dogs, they weren’t – some of the dogs were exotic specimens costing over $ 15,000, plus the cost of a “flight nurse” to deliver the animal from a breeder who lives across the country. .

“Dogs are considered a luxury item – if it doesn’t live up to their expectations, they can return it,” she said.

But pet owners who hope to return puppies to pet stores are barking in the wrong tree, Smith-Berk said.

“A pet store will never take back an animal – they don’t care if it doesn’t work out. And relief organizations can’t take it back – they have no place to go, ”Smith-Berk said. “The flaw here is that these animals will end up in shelters and that is a terrible reality.”

She said she hopes people will see this news and think twice before giving up a dog.

“A pet is a member of your family, it has the intelligence of a small child, so you are essentially rendering your 2 year old,” she says. “People don’t understand that.”




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About Jessica Zavala

Jessica Zavala

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