Animal shelters see an uptick in abandoned, returned dogs

Some animal shelters in Montgomery County are seeing an uptick in stray dogs or dogs being dropped off as people return to activities outside their homes as the pandemic wanes.

During the beginning of the pandemic, dog adoptions and purchases increased as shelter in place orders were announced in Ohio. A year later mandates have been lifted, and as people leave their homes more often animal shelters told the Dayton Daily news they have seen an increase in intake for dogs.

Since January, the Animal Resource Center of Montgomery County has taken in nearly 900 dogs. Of those, 732 were stray dogs that were either abandoned or ran away from home. They also have 61 dogs that were returned to the shelter after adoption.

“We want everyone to be aware when they adopt a dog that it is a commitment that you’re making to this living thing. But really the issue is, if you look at our stats, the dogs that are coming in are from strays,” said Michael Zimmerman, spokesman for the Animal Resource Center of Montgomery County. “So really what we’re seeing is a huge issue with responsible pet ownership.”

Zimmerman encourages pet owners to register their pets so they can decipher between homeless dogs and those that run away from home when the resource center picks them up.

On Tuesday, county Auditor Keith Karl revealed that dog license sales have sharply decreased for this year. He said 21.5% fewer licenses have been purchased at the Animal Resource Center.

“We’ve seen a decrease in licenses bought in-person this year, as you would expect during the pandemic,” said Keith. “In turn, we’ve seen an increase in online license sales, but not nearly enough to fill the gap.”

The staff at SICSA Pet Adoption and Wellness Center in Washington Twp. have noticed an increase in returns for both dogs and cats.

“In March, we were fairly average for where we expect to be in terms of returns. In April, we almost doubled that percentage and we saw another increase in May,” said Jessie Sullivan, director of Adoption and Alternative Services. We generally run about 6% to 7% in terms of return rates, and now we’re looking at more like 13% to 16%.”

Sullivan said there are several reasons why an adopter would return a pet including the adopted pets temperament or inability to get along with the adopter’s current pet, medical concerns, or life changes where the adopter can no longer care for the animal.

However, she admits that the spike in returns came around the same time travel and more activities were restored after a year of being shuttered inside.

“I think at this point last year people were realizing, I’m home for the foreseeable future and to make the best of that situation I have time to adopt a pet,” she said. “At this point the opposite seems to be true. Everyone is planning vacations and planning to be away from home and generally that’s not the best time to adopt a pet.”

The opposite is true for the Humane Society of Greater Dayton as officials there report not having an alarming increase in returns. The shelter is lingering around their average 3% to 5% return rate.

CEO and President Brian Weltge attributes the numbers to his organization’s foster to adopt program where would-be adopters have a three-day window to take a pet home to ensure it’s a good fit for their family.

Due to large number of animals in some shelters, rescue and adoption centers have been forced to limit the number of animals they can accept. The Animal Resource Center is at capacity, but Zimmerman said there is some room to accept dangerous or critically ill pets.

“For other dogs we’re really trying to limit intake so we’re really asking the members of the community to sort of help us out. If they see a dog that doesn’t appear to be dangerous just go around the neighborhood and ask if someone’s dog got loose,” Zimmerman said.

Sullivan said SICSA has no plans of adjusting their adoption process to mitigate the number of returns.

While they are disappointing, they’re not always a negative. They are an opportunity to learn more about an animal, to have a conversation with an adopter about why things didn’t work and what needs to be different in the future,” she said.

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