Pets surrendered to Toronto shelters up 75% from last year due to return to office, rising costs

The number of pets surrendered to Toronto shelters so far this year is up 75 per cent compared to the first half of 2021, due to residents returning back to the office and rising pet-related costs.

According to Toronto Animal Services (TAS), 709 pets, including cats, dogs and others, were given to city shelters from January 1 to June 23 this year, compared to 404 during the same time period last year.

The pets surrendered so far this year include 327 cats, up from 260 a year ago ,151 dogs, compared to 103 last year, and 231 other animals, compared to 41 last year.

“Some of that increase is a couple of hoarding cases that we had with some rats and some rabbits. We are seeing an overall increase though for the number of dogs and cats that are being surrendered,” TAS Director Esther Attard told CP24 on Tuesday.

Attard says many people are deciding to give up their pets because they are returning back to work as COVID-19 conditions improve.

“(Surrendering pets) is not something new and through the pandemic it was much lower and now we’re just starting to see an uptick. And reasons for that are people having things change in their lives, new jobs, or having to move house, not being able to afford care and the cost for a pet at this time, because certainly the cost of things have gone up and that includes pet food,” she said. 

In addition, many high-energy, large breeds have been surrendered to city shelters and are up for adoption.

“When adopting a dog, it is important for the pet owners to consider the size of the dog as well as the breed requirements. Some owners may underestimate the amount of training and exercise required for large breeds,” TAS said in a statement to CP24.

The agency says there is currently a waitlist for pet surrenders due to the large number of dogs being surrendered or that have come in as strays and never claimed.

However, Attard says there is room at the shelter for more pets and that TAS handles their “intake very carefully.”

There is a fee for surrending pets but Attard says sometimes that fee is waived depending on the situation.

“We do try to recoup some of the costs certainly for the care of the animals where we can and so there is a fee but again, that’s not a barrier,” she said.

“We all want to keep pets with their people. That’s our focus. So we try and counsel and do as much as we can, providing food, access to care if they need it,” she added. 

In response to the rising number of animals in the shelter system, the city has launched a short and long-term foster program to find homes for pets in need.

TAS also has initiatives that reduce the costs of essential pet services to help residents keep their pets.

Last week, TAS hosted its first mobile chip truck of the year, providing microchip, pet licensing and rabies vaccines for pets at a reduced cost.

The next chip truck event is scheduled for July 27 at Breakaway Community Services. Free cat and dog food is also available at the truck while supplies last.

TAS also has a SNYP truck which provides spay and neuter services for dog and cat owners in low income households.

Residents with a household income of less than $50,000 must make an appointment for the SNYP truck by calling 416-338-6281 or emailing spayneuter@toronto.ca.

Pets who are available for adoption can be found here.

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