City shelters overrun with dogs as adoption craze ends


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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 17/03/2022 (450 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Wanted: homes for furry friends.

It appears the adoption craze sparked by people working from home has wound down; local shelters are overflowing with four-legged residents who need a permanent home.

Winnipeg Animal Services has comfortably managed 20 dogs in its shelter, give or take, throughout the pandemic. That number has nearly doubled in just the last few weeks, general manager Leland Gordon said.

Local shelters are overflowing with four-legged residents who need a permanent home.
RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Local shelters are overflowing with four-legged residents who need a permanent home.

The city-run service took to social media to seek people who want to adopt a dog.

“It is an anomaly, because I’ve been running Animal Services for 12 years now, and it’s been years since we’ve made a social media post like that,” he said.

Gordon said it’s possible many people who were hesitant prior to the pandemic, decided to adopt a dog once they had to routinely work from home.

“Maybe there’s only so many people who want to adopt a dog, and maybe those people have already adopted the dogs the last few years,” he said.

There’s also the possibility unlicensed dogs have managed to escape from fenced yards by climbing over the huge snowbanks this winter. They have no way of being reunited with their owners.

“Then the owners decide they really didn’t even want that dog – because there’s a novelty that people got pets during the pandemic,” he said. “Instead of trying to get the dog, they just go ahead and find out it’s at Animal Services and leave it there.”

It’s a reminder to license your pet. Spaying and neutering pets helps to keep shelters from being overpopulated – Gordon noted that nearly every stray dog who lands in the shelter, on Logan Avenue, isn’t fixed or licensed.

“Almost every dog that’s sitting in an animal shelter here has a previous owner. Some of those owners have decided for whatever reason that they no longer want their dog and they’re hoping maybe that the animal shelter will give their dog a better life and find a better home for their dog, which is not a bad thing,” he said.

“But on the flip side, it’s very important that residents think long and hard before they add a dog to their family.”

Pet shelters across the city have had trouble adopting out dogs in recent months. Manitoba Underdogs Rescue doesn’t have a brick-and-mortar shelter and solely relies on fosters. While they couldn’t keep dogs for long earlier in the pandemic, now, it’s hard to take on new pups – especially considering they haven’t been able to raise money the way they were able to pre-COVID, volunteer Lindsay Gillanders said.

“(Back then,) when we would post a dog and say, ‘Who wants to foster, who wants to adopt?’ and it was instantly gone versus now where it’s like, ‘Anybody? Please help? Can you help?’” Gillanders said. “And we get it done, but it’s completely different.”

The Winnipeg Humane Society is also filled to the brim with dogs.

CEO Jessica Miller said normally, they share animals with Animal Services and other local shelters based on space, but everyone appears to be at capacity.

“Now we’re finding, January, February, March, (adoptions) have become quite slow, which is concerning, because I’m wondering if this is a post-pandemic kind of environment,” she said.

“That people are maybe going back to work, or there’s obviously other economic issues going on in the world that are unsettling. All of those types of things contribute to the environment that everyone’s living in, and if they feel that they have the time, energy, money and situation to adopt an animal.”

Like Gordon, she hopes people ensure they’re ready to take in a pet. Once they are certain, they are more than welcome to take home a new canine buddy.

“Shelter life is hard. It’s loud in here, and everyone’s barking and the kennels are clanging… and we find that the longer they stay, the more stress they get. They can decline both in physical and mental health.”

Gordon, Gillanders and Miller encourage people to check out adoptable dogs online.

Malak Abas

Malak Abas

Malak Abas is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.

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