AS SYDNEY emerges from yet another round of lockdowns, animal shelters are reminding people that pets are for life, not just for the pandemic.
Last year's lockdown led to a documented surge in the number of Australians adopting pets as a cure to isolation-induced boredom and loneliness. But as restrictions eased, shelters around NSW reported adopters were trying to return the animals they brought home during lockdown.
Monika Biernacki is the founder of northern beaches-based animal rescue Monika's Doggie Rescue. She said while her shelter hasn't experienced adoption regret with the animals they homed, "the pounds are overflowing again". The centre has also received an influx of messages from people no longer able to care for pets they acquired elsewhere.
"Prior to the recent lockdown people were moving back into part-time work in the office," she said. "Before that, the dogs they grabbed in the COVID time were used to 24/7 human company. The dogs are just told 'I'm not going to be home for two days now, deal with it.' And of course they don't deal with it."
Alone time without a 'transition period' can lead to behavioural issues in dogs who struggle to adjust to the change in routine, she said. Signs a dog is suffering separation anxiety include barking when alone, trying to escape and urinating or defecating in the house. Some owners find these behaviours too difficult to deal with and end up surrendering their pets.
Dr Anne Quain, veterinarian and lecturer at the University of Sydney School of Veterinary Science, said that punishing dogs for these behaviours could make the symptoms even worse. "Their owners and even neighbours can bear the brunt of this distress," she said. Owners should also avoid going 'cold turkey' in leaving their dogs for the day, advised Dr Quain, and if a dog is already showing signs of anxiety, they should speak to a vet or dog trainer.
Felicity Hillenaar, president of the Animal Welfare League NSW Northern Beaches Branch, said the group had received more requests for behavioural support and advice for their pets since people started returning to the office. "Many people misunderstand the many needs of both dogs and cats," she said. "Pets require a lot of support from their caretakers and some owners are not prepared for this level of commitment."
Ms Biernacki urged anyone looking to adopt to do their research and take their time when choosing a dog. "You have to choose the right sort of dog for your living circumstances and when people apply for dogs, we make them think about that and get a dog they're really comfortable with," she said. "Do it carefully and slowly, and don't just jump in."
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can access our trusted content:
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.