May 21st, 2024

Changes around pet ownership regulations reduce abandonment

By Alejandra Pulido-Guzman - Lethbridge Herald on December 16, 2021.

Herald photo by Alejandra Pulido-Guzman A resident dog the Lethbridge Animal Shelter strikes an apprehensive pose. Staff say they work to help owners keep their pets facing circumstances that might otherwise lead to surrender.


The topic of abandonment or relinquishing of animals seems to come up every year around Christmas, but it is not something that happens often, says Lethbridge Animal Services.
“I think the misconception is, or the information that is not out there is that this is not as big of an issue as some people think it might be,” said Skylar Plourde, animal bylaw enforcement officer for Lethbridge Animal Services.
He said that when it is an issue, it is not just around Christmas time. The narrative used to be that people would buy a pet from the pet store for Christmas and then realize by February that it was not a good fit and then relinquish or abandon the animal, but that has changed.
“I think a lot of things have changed around pet ownership, how people get pets, how pets are regulated and the work that animal rescues and such do,” said Plourde.
He said that now it is almost impossible to buy a cat or a dog from a pet store, for the most part. More common options are through adoption programs, through rescues rather than buying from a breeder. And most reputable breeders would have pretty stringent contracts and interview processes through applications that helps reduce a possible return.
“Are we finding cats and dogs being dumped outside of the shelter everyday? Definitely not. Which is a good thing,” said Plourde.
He said that in fact it is very rare for that to happen. Even people contacting the shelter to surrender an animal does not happen a lot.
“It is not something our agency is really mandated to deal with in the first place. Our first priority is to deal with strays to be housed and hopefully find the owner by identification,” said Plourde.
He said when they do get requests to surrender an animal it is usually because they can’t afford to keep them, and the agency tries to find other solutions. One problem that often arises is the lack of funds to provide animals with food, and they are able to help those in need through their community pet food program, which started approximately six years ago.
“The program is not intended to feed your animal full time, if that is the case maybe surrendering the animal is an option. But if it something temporary like being in between jobs, you moved or something like that, then we are able to support people,” said Plourde.
Plourde said that in the end, the animals they take on as surrenders are usually due to a reported behavioural issue. Most of the time after an assessment is done, it turns out it is something very minor the staff is able to correct and the animal is put up for adoption.
“These problems are solvable and we hope they can be solved at home rather than the animal being surrendered,” said Plourde.
Plourde said that through education and enforcement, they are working towards the goal of keeping pets at home.
“They are not disposable, they should not be just left behind when you are done with them somewhere,” said Plourde.
He said people should be aware that abandoning pets is an offense under the Animal Protection Act and the Criminal Code that can lead to charges.

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