Pets are being abandoned at Rouge Park at an alarming rate, park officials warn
Officials at Toronto’s largest park are warning pet owners after noting an alarming rise in the number of abandoned pets in recent years.
Allendria Brunjes, director of external relations at Rouge National Urban Park, said she only received two reports of abandoned pets in 2019 and 2020.
That number rose to nine in 2021 and 18 last year.
“It’s never okay to abandon a pet in the wild,” Brunjes said. “It’s really hard for a pet to survive… They’re often found cold, wet, hungry, hypothermic, starved.”
Animals abandoned in the park in recent years include dogs, cats, rabbits, rats, turtles, fish, and other aquatic creatures.
Even if abandoned pets survive, their presence threatens the natural species that live in the park, including animals that are considered endangered due to competition for food and habitat, Brunjes said, and adding pets can also carry parasites, diseases, viruses and parasites Bacteria transmit wild animals.
The reports include a case where an abandoned puppy was found dead near his belongings, Brunjes said, and a terrified husky that took more than a month for park staff to capture.
Stu Johnson, a humane dog catcher with the Team Chelsea volunteer group who helped capture the loose husky, said he’s noticing an increase in abandoned pets in the greater Toronto area.
He said the increase in abandonment signals a dark consequence of the “pandemic puppy boom” — a phenomenon that saw demand for pets surge at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic among Canadians who felt isolated after months of social distancing.
“[On] York area back roads and Durham area back roads have people dropping dogs non-stop,” he said.
“I think a lot of this has to do with COVID. People got pets through COVID and now they don’t want to deal with the vet bills and things like that. They think the easiest way out is to just throw them away.”
Johnson said abandoned dogs generally stay close to where their owners left them, awaiting their eventual return. After two or three days, their wild instincts kick in and they become more difficult to capture.
While dogs can survive in the wild, some are found in serious condition. The rest don’t survive, Johnson said.
Another worrying trend is defections to emergency shelters
Meanwhile, some animal shelters are struggling to find new homes for the adopted pets that have been put up for adoption.
Mike Mulick, general manager of Brampton Animal Services, said animal adoption is becoming longer and longer. Mulick said the average time for dogs has increased to nearly 25 days from 15 days a few years ago.
“As people return to work, people seem reluctant to take on new responsibilities as the economy and interest rates rise, so the animals that come into our care stay here longer,” Mulick said.
“It adds up and fills our kennels to the point where we can’t take any new animals.”
Mulick said people who give up their pets for adoption at his shelter generally cite financial reasons or behavioral issues.
He encouraged pet owners to seek help from animal shelters like his for animal care advice to prevent behavior problems. Owners can also take advantage of programs like one of his animal shelter offerings, which provide temporary access to pet food for people with financial difficulties, he said.