More ‘pandemic pets’ returning to animal shelters


ST. LOUIS (KTVI) — Animal shelters are seeing more adopted animals and foster pets returned to their facilities.

“Shelters in the area are full just like we are,” said Andrea Wilkey, director of operations for Stray Rescue of St. Louis. “We’ve seen animals left outside on our benches. We’ve seen animals tied up down the street.”

Wilkey said Stray Rescue has seen a slight increase in pet returns.

“We had some instances where people take on fosters because they’re working from home, where they’re now traveling, now going back to work, now that restrictions are lifted. So there are a few cases where we’re seeing that happen,” she said.

Approximately 12.6 million U.S. households got a new pet last year after the pandemic was declared in March 2020, according to a COVID-19 Pulse Study by the American Pet Products Association.

However, an initial surge nationally in adoptions during the pandemic has leveled off, as coronavirus-related restrictions have led to shelters taking in only the most at-risk animals.

National statistics reported in March showed adoptions actually were down from the same time a year ago.

Spring Schmidt, with the St. Louis County Department of Public Health, said she’s seen an increase in pet returns as well.

“We have seen a few more adoption returns in the first five months of this year than we did last year,” she said.

Not everyone sees animals returned, though. Becky Krueger, with the Humane Society of Missouri, said they’re not seeing an increase compared to other years.

Staci Sorber, who has a rescue animal and is on her second foster dog, said she’s concerned that there are “just too many” animals in shelters that need homes.

When the pandemic began, Sorber speculated that animals might be returned once things started getting back to normal. “I was very concerned about that happening. It’s upsetting,” she said.

Pandemic or not, she said people should understand the responsibility that comes with adopting a pet.

“It’s a lifelong commitment, and if you’re going to get one, you should think of it as a lifelong commitment,” she said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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