About a third of dogs in Humane Society shelters each year are there because they’ve been surrendered by their owners.
According to Humane Canada, while 2020 (the most recent year for which stats are available) saw a 28 per cent decrease in intake numbers, about 34 per cent of their total dog intake were surrenders. Some 12 per cent of dogs taken in by affiliated shelters were euthanized that year, an uptick of two per cent over 2019.
The founder of Hobo Haven Pet Rescue in St. Jacobs is asking prospective dog owners to do their due diligence before making the decision to bring a dog home.
“There are thousands of rescues across Canada. The root cause is it comes down to education, responsible pet ownership, being very careful when you choose to have a pet that you’re committed to it for life and everything that’s involved in that. The finances, understanding the breed that you’re bringing into your home so that you can meet its needs doing the proper training and the proper socialization,” said Chris who asked that her last name not be used given the sensitivity of the subject.
“[That includes] keeping pets safely contained at home so they’re not roaming stray, because … any of the strays really end up at shelters, typically. If the owners don’t claim them, then they end up in rescue. That’s a lot of what overloads it,” she said.
Like other shelters and rescues, Hobo Haven is dealing with what has been called “pandemic puppies” where people who were spending more time at home would adopt a dog and later on realize it was not a good fit. While some of this has been attributed to a return to pre-pandemic conditions, this is not a new phenomenon at Hobo Haven.
“We’ve seen it since the first year COVID hit. Lots of people saw it as a good opportunity to raise a dog properly because they had more time, which is great. There are people who brought in a new puppy or a new dog, because ‘while I’m home, I have nothing else to do.’ And then the novelty wore off, or they didn’t put the appropriate training and socialization into the animal or realize they couldn’t afford the vet,” Chris explained.
The rescue saw its first pandemic puppy over two years ago. While there was no harm intended, this increase has happened because people would not educate themselves before adopting, she noted.
“If you adopt a child, you put a lot of thought into that. And the adoption agencies screen people very carefully who want to adopt children,” she said.
The rescue is also seeing an increase in dogs being surrendered by commercial breeders.
“Right now there is a higher percentage from breeders than it has been in a long time because that is, I believe, more pandemic-related because there was mass breeding going on, because there were mass people buying and it drove the pricing up,” Chris explained.
This raises questions about the place breeders have in the system, Chris said.
“It’s a supply-and-demand industry. So when every single person that buys a puppy creates demand for more. That’s how it’s propagated, and our bylaws don’t really control that very well.”
However there are also a lot of reputable breeders, she said.
“They don’t have to advertise, they have a long wait list. They do proper health clearances, they screen extremely rigidly with every buyer. It’s a big difference.”
Following reports of 16 puppies that were surrendered to Hobo Haven, the organization has seen an increase of online hate, including accusations that it is creating the problem by charging large adoption fees and not allowing just anyone to adopt a dog.
“That’s very unfounded because our entire objective is to make sure it’s a good forever home that meets the needs of each dog. Even out of that 16 puppy surrender, it was multiple litters. Every single dog in those litters is different. They have different genetics, they have different temperaments. They have a different evolution as to who they’re going to be,” said Chris.
Hobo Haven does extensive vet background checks as well as an interview and home inspection to make sure a dog is going to its forever home.
“Because what happens then is it’s no different than buying it off Kijiji. If we just let anybody come and get a dog, then the same thing happens over and over again. People don’t put any thought into it. People take them on impulse because of their looks, without any research into what’s involved. Setting the dogs up for success for life with one family is our objective,” she said.
Hobo Haven is an entirely foster-home based rescue, meaning it does not have a physical location. While a permanent home would be ideal, it’s not in the cards, she said.
“There are no funds. There’s absolutely no funds. This is all volunteer, every penny of the vet bills comes out of my pocket. There is no money for a shelter. I would love to have a facility, but I can’t see it ever happening,” she said.
Running the rescue is worth it, however, she stresses.
“Seeing 99.9 per cent of these dogs that come to us [some of which] are on death’s door sometimes, completely turn around and be vibrant, healthy, happy animals, no longer petrified of humans is absolutely priceless. It’s a passion for me. It’s a sickness because it breaks you. It breaks you emotionally, mentally,” she said.