Manitoba animal shelters adapt to ‘extremely high’ adoption rates during pandemic

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Manitoba pets have been in high demand, and several Manitoba shelters have reported an increase in pet adoptions. 

From Manitoba Underdogs Rescue, volunteer Lindsay Gillanders noted the “extremely high” adoption rates. She reported a particularly high demand for dogs and puppies. 

“We very rarely actually have dogs available because they go so quickly,” said Gillanders. 

Megan Peters, a volunteer at Manitoba Mutts Dog Rescue, described a similar story. Several months ago, the rescue experienced its highest number of adoptions since 2012.  

“The puppies in particular, and kittens, they go up for adoption and have seven to 10 applications within the first half hour.”

The rescue has also seen a rise of applications for new foster requests.   

The demand in Manitoba reflects a broader trend of adopting during the pandemic.  

Shannon Paille, operations coordinator for the City of Winnipeg’s Animal Services Agency, largely attributes being “dog-crazy” to the pandemic’s stay-at-home restrictions. 

“Everybody being home, you’ve got time to adopt, you’ve got time to put in some extra training,” said Paille. In her opinion, people are better able to “commit that time and energy resource” during the pandemic.

However, this new desire for pets does not always correspond to new adoptions. 

The Winnipeg Humane Society has seen less adoptions when compared the previous year.

Lenore Hume, communications strategist at the organization, attributes this to the decision to switch to appointment-only adoptions at the start of the pandemic. 

“Even though it seems like there’s a high demand for adoption throughout the pandemic because people are at home [and] they’re realizing they have time for animals […] we’re not seeing that through the numbers,” Hume said.  

In other cases, the increase in adoptions has also led to concerns about increased surrenders.  

Gillanders noted that Manitoba Underdogs Rescue has had the same concerns.  

“With a lot of adoptions also comes a lot of people realizing that they’ve made an error,” she said. “They didn’t think it through properly and are looking to return the dog.”

“We saw in three weeks the same number of dogs returned as we normally see in a year.”

She noted that COVID-19 has limited opportunities for dog training which may contribute to increased behavioural issues and, ultimately, higher returns.  

In fact, these animals may experience unique behavioural challenges. 

Susanna Kilty, program director of the Pawsh Dog Training Academy, believes that the increased time spent with family may pose some issues for newly adopted pets. 

“Going forward, this may pose problems in the form of separation anxiety issues, which can manifest in destructive behaviours and a dog under stress,” she explained.  

“As well, the dog may already show some problematic behaviours because people are unable to expose their pets to ‘normal’ stimuli because of health restrictions and social distancing.” 

However, for Gillanders and her new dog Dot, adopting during the pandemic was a “good decision.” 

“Having so much love around all the time helps me to deal with the isolation that COVID-19 has lumped on my life,” she said.  

“She brings me so much joy that is a real bright spot when I’m cut off from most of my loved ones.”