‘Adopting a Pet Can Be Fun but It’s Not a Game’: Rising Number of Adopted Pets Being Returned

By Rebecca Zhu
Rebecca Zhu
Rebecca Zhu
August 10, 2021 Updated: August 10, 2021

A Victorian dog shelter has asked Victorians to stop impulsively adopting pets after their shelters reported a surge in the number of people returning their animals, some just 24 hours after adoption.

The request comes after the shelter noted it had seen a 67 percent increase in returned or surrendered pets from this time last year. The data also showed that the number of people inquiring online about surrendering their pets grew by 46 percent.

Shelter supervisor Allie Small said while some unavoidable circumstances exist, some pets were not given a chance to settle in their new homes.

“Research shows it can take anywhere between three weeks to three months for a pet to settle into a new home,” Small said in a statement. “We are asking the community to ask for help if they need it and give your pets a real chance to thrive in their new homes.”

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Dog owners in Sydney, Australia, on June 23, 2021. (Jenny Evans/Getty Images)

“That’s three weeks to three months of really hard work to make sure that your animal understands its new routine. You fit the animal into your lifestyle. But you’re still meeting the needs of the animal—it requires quite a big change for everyone,” she said.

Small said that a lot of new owners were returning their pets within the first week because they did not know how to cope with their new pet and did not realise they were not ready for the challenge.

One 7-year-old male Labrador called Koi was returned to the shelter one day after being adopted after he spent a lot of time vocalising, barking, and being unsettled. The family that adopted him were unable to cope and chose to return him.

“Adopting a pet can be exciting, it can be fun, but it’s not a game, it’s not a social media photo opportunity, it’s a lifetime commitment and one we expect people to honour,” Small said. “If you are having trouble with your pet, there is help. Just reach out.”

Rather than reaching out and asking for advice on how to handle their pets, she said people are “just kind of giving up.”

The number of people interested in accessing dog behaviour training information had also fallen by half.

Small is encouraging people thinking about adopting pets to consider the option of fostering an animal first.

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Dogs are more likely than cats to get owners to exercise during lockdowns. (Tran Mau Tri Tam/Unsplash)

Despite the returns, the Lost Dogs’ Home shelters noted that the number of adoptions was still significant, with 687 animals finding a home in April this year. This was the highest number in over a decade. Over 400 of them were cats. Meanwhile, in July, 481 pets were adopted.

A spokesperson for the shelter Suzana Talevski said they thought the number reflected priorities to focus more on family, friendships, and relationships.

“It is more about what feeds the soul, and animals certainly do that,” Talevski said on May 12.

Rebecca Zhu
Rebecca Zhu