Bloomington Animal Care and Control, which operates the City of Bloomington Animal Shelter, has seen animal surrenders pick up after businesses reopened. Employees said people are returning adopted pets they can’t take care of now that work and school are back in-person.
IU junior Kate Millar began interning at BACC in June. She said the return to real life after the pandemic has proven difficult for pet owners who adopted pets while at home.
“I think a lot of people adopted animals when they were home a lot, and now if they’re going back out they’re not having time for it,” Millar said.
BACC director Virgil Sauder said this is an issue across the country, not just in Bloomington. He said summer months tend to be extremely busy for shelters, as people transition to work and can no longer care for their pets.
“In the summer months, that tends to be the time of the year where we struggle with that the most,” Sauder said. “We always have to work on either getting animals out the door through adoption quicker or working at basically expanding our shelter through the foster program.”
Sauder said for the past five to 10 years, about 50% of the shelter’s intake has come from owner surrenders. Last year was a little slower than normal as a result of the pandemic. This year, the shelter has seen an increase in pet surrenders as people are returning to normalcy.
“This has been an issue every year,” Sauder said. “This is the normal. Last year was a bit of an abnormal year where we didn’t have a lot of movement locally, so we didn’t have a lot of animals coming in.”
A waitlist is in place to prevent the overcrowding of the shelter from pet surrenders, Sauder said. Owners who wish to give up their pets can sign up for the waiting list, and the shelter will bring in their animals when there is enough space.
Senior Liz Abbott, volunteer program assistant intern at BACC, said she recommends owners to try to train their dogs before bringing them back to the shelter, especially the dogs adopted during quarantine that may be acting out from separation anxiety because their owners have returned to work.
BACC has behavioral trainers in place as an alternative to pet surrender to help dogs that may have issues, such as being rowdy and tearing things up, Abbott said.
“People need to know that there are options to train your dog,” he said. “Especially things like crate-training can stop them from tearing up your house. There are behavioral trainers who can help you, instead of sending your dog back to the shelter.”
Abbott said the number of animals being surrendered can become a serious problem, so the waitlists put in place have been a great preventative measure to avoid stress for the owners, workers and the animals.
Abbott said owners like college students need to be ready to take care of their pets for many years into the future when they decide to adopt.
“I think it’s important for people who are considering adopting a pet to consider the long term implications of what they’re doing,” Abbott said. “Dogs can live 15 years, cats can live 20-plus years, so if you’re thinking about adopting a pet while you’re in college, think about where you’ll be in your life 10, 15 plus years from now.”
Correction: A previous version of this article misspelled Virgil Sauder's last name.