“It’s very frustrating when people think animals are disposable,” said Mahoning County dog sitter Dianne Fry.
A recent increase in abandonment and stray animals at Mahoning Valley animal shelters is due in part to the COVID-19 pandemic – but also to the irresponsibility of owners, local animal advocates have said.
Local shelter owners said Mahoning questions some returning to work in the office – after months of working from home – choose not to keep pets that kept them company during the lockdown. But they also believe that pet owners don’t properly educate themselves about their care or property before taking responsibility for it.
“We have [taken] guinea pigs, hamsters, parrots, chinchillas and a rooster, ”said Veronica Caruso, owner of the nonprofit Small World Animal Shelter in Girard, which has coped“ very badly ”with a recent increase in dropouts. ‘animals.
The shelter – funded largely by Social Security benefits from Caruso – typically houses around 30 animals at any one time, but last week it was also caring for more than 20 additional cats and 20 dogs, she said. declared.
Last month, more than 350 new cats arrived at Angels for Animals in Canfield, the shelter’s cat wing manager Sherry Bankey said. The shelter has been welcoming at least 300 cats or more each month since April, she estimated.
“There are people going back to work or losing their jobs and they’re dumping cats now,” she said. “They’ve been taking care of it all this time. Now their life is back to normal and they don’t want them.
“Now all the shelters are inundated with cats right now and they have to turn people away.”
Bankey also urged those who wish to help stray cats by feeding them during the colder months and during the spring thaw to take the initiative to have them neutered at a local veterinary clinic. Last winter was warmer than usual, which means the cat’s breeding season started earlier this year. Each cat has about three litters each year, and there are typically between four and seven kittens in each litter, she said.
“I think these people have been off work for a while … and maybe they haven’t noticed this stray cat hanging around. [before]”Bankey said.” They fed them and nursed them and didn’t fix them. Now there is an explosion of cats. “
Although Angels for Animals also oversees 400 other foster cats, finding available families has become more difficult as the COVID-19 pandemic abates – “everyone is going on vacation,” Bankey said . “Even distressed foster families are putting him on hold until August.”
Most of the new cats entering the shelter test positive for feline leukemia. Most cases of euthanasia at the shelter are now due to illness, she said. And the longer these felines stay in overcrowded shelters, the more at risk they are for upper respiratory viruses and other contagious infections, which caused the shelter to close for a month last summer, Bankey said.
The Mahoning County Dog Pound along North Meridian Road in Youngstown is also seeing more unwanted dogs in its kennels than last year.
The pound has housed an average of 78 dogs each month last year, 11 of which were returned by their owners, according to the county dog sitter’s website. So far this year, the pound has taken in 86 dogs each month, and an average of 16 of them have been given up for adoption.
“It’s very frustrating when people think animals are disposable,” County Dog Sitter Dianne Fry said.
The pound can house just over 100 dogs at a time, and numbered around 30 on Tuesday, a testament to its quick turnaround, she said.
So far this year, the pound has housed between 60 and 100 dogs each month, of which more than three in five have been returned to their owners or adopted to the public or rescued in the same month.
In many surrender cases, dogs bred for work, like sheepdogs, or protection dogs, like pitbulls, mastiffs and cane corsos, are too energetic or aggressive for their owners, Fry said. In other cases, “they have this cute puppy at Christmas and in the summer he is not spayed, he has not been trained, and they are starting to see him because the puppy is not that small or controllable, ”she said.
“You’re going to get what you put in it. If you put the work into it, you’ll have years of fun. If you don’t, you’re going to have a potential problem for a long time.”
She also urged dog owners to sterilize their pets to cool their temper and avoid health issues later in life.
“A lot of it is about being a responsible pet owner – understanding the breeds you adopt,” Fry said.
The pound workers try to educate pet adopters on adoption, proper dog breeds, and training, but “I don’t know if you’re ever going to fix something like this,” he said. she declared. “If you can’t handle it, be responsible and go home.”
To donate to Small World Animal Shelter, visit its Facebook page.