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British Columbians are keeping their pandemic pets: BC SPCA

The animal welfare charity says it's seeing a much lower return rate when compared to non-COVID years.

Purchasing a pet during the pandemic skyrocketed over the last year and unlike our neighbours to the south, it appears most people are keeping their animals as COVID-19 restrictions lift. 

The BC SPCA says the number of returns or surrenders is down compared to other years. 

“We definitely heard stories from other locations in the United States and in some locations in Canada where people were returning their pets to shelters and that was a worrying trend,” says Lorie Chortyk, the organization's general manager of communications. “But here in B.C., we have not seen that at the SPCA at all.” 

Across the non-profit's 36 shelters, there's a return rate of five per cent. This year, Chortyk says it’s even lower. 

“We always do have a low rate but it actually even decreased throughout the pandemic and we are still seeing that very low number,” she tells Glacier Media. 

BC SPCA has a thorough adoption process, she adds, attributing it to the low return rate. 

For Vancouver resident Elizabeth Moffat, adopting a dog has been a smooth transition. 

“The timing was really good,” says Moffat. “She could adjust and I didn’t feel like I had to introduce her to things too quickly.”

Her furry companion, Lexie, is a rescue from Taiwan. The pair was matched in late October and it took until Dec. 30 for her to arrive in B.C. 

“It’s been really good. It really helped when it was cold and you didn’t want to go outside. It makes you take three walks a day,” she says.

Moffat is able to work some days at an office and some days at home, creating a special routine for her dog. 

“Luckily, right now, I have my office space whenever I go in, so she comes in about half the time with me and she’s been a big hit,” she says.

Another pet owner has also been able to adjust her schedule to be flexible for her new puppy.

“I switched to full-time working from home and thankfully our employees are quite happy to let that continue,” says Andrea Curran.

Having a new puppy made the pandemic much more tolerable for the Cowichan Valley resident. 

“It’s OK being home when you’ve got these guys to be home with. I don’t think that I have to stay home because of COVID. I like staying home because I’ve got my dogs at home with me,” says Curran. 

“Raising a puppy during COVID made me think a lot less about COVID for sure.”

Meanwhile, it's a different story for one cat rescue society in Mission.

“We are incredibly busy. We weren’t as busy last year because we were able to have cats going out into homes right away and things have slowed down quite a bit and we are seeing an influx in surrenders and cats in need this year,” says Melina Csontos, executive director of Cat Therapy and Rescue.

On average, they have about 200 cats in their foster care system. Currently, they have 300.

“We are getting the same reasons as we’ve always gotten every year, but we are getting extras that are basically like, ‘We adopted a cat and now we are going back to work and it’s not fitting our lifestyle, it’s not working. The cat needs more than we can offer it.’ That is a very common reason that people are surrendering right now,” she says. 

Csontos asks people to consider fostering if they’re home this summer and are able to do so. 

The BC SPCA, meanwhile, has programs for people if they need help adjusting to their new routines through their AnimalKind program

“I think the most important thing is to help your pets adjust to a new routine and I think to have patience,” says Chortyk. “They will get used to it. Pets always adjust. They just need a little time.”