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Survey reveals pain points of pet ownership during the pandemic

A new report from Mars Petcare’s Better Cities for Pets focuses primarily on living with pets during the pandemic and presents a snapshot of how pet ownership has evolved in response to it. 

Although many of the report findings are positive, such as 78% of respondents reporting their pets lessened their own stress and anxiety, other pet owners are struggling to care for their pets.

Twenty percent of surveyed pet owners admitted they’d considering surrendering their pets; of that twenty percent, thirteen did.

And 61% of pet owners are concerned about the cost of owning a pet.

Many pet owners have faced financial challenges throughout the pandemic, leading to difficult decisions. Among the findings:

  • Of pet owners who considered giving up a pet during the pandemic, 31% said access to pet-friendly housing resources would have been helpful, while 32% said short-term financial help and 30% said more access to pet services or support would have been helpful
  • City officials across the country acknowledged their communities’ difficulties in recent months. One in three have heard concerns from residents about the financial challenges of pet care and the potential need to rehome a pet, and 64% are in favor of providing assistance to pet owners due to the pandemic

Karalyn Aropen, vice president of operations at AAHA-accredited East Bay Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Oakland, California, told NEWStat that her shelter has actually seen a decrease in owner surrender requests this year—a decrease she credits in large part to a new “diversion” program the shelter started to mitigate financial-hardship surrenders: “Instead of counseling an owner about surrender, we provide them with the resources they need to be able to keep their pet.”

Aropen said that, by far, the greatest need they’ve seen is help paying for veterinary care—which the shelter is often able to provide. “Most of the surrenders we’ve accepted have been because of changes in life circumstances,” she added, changes that are often COVID related, and include having to move due to a job loss or to take care of a sick family member. A lack of affordable, pet-friendly housing is another big problem.

At the moment, however, East Bay’s efforts to help pet owners keep their pets seem to be working.

“Last year [from January through September], we received 569 requests for surrender,” Aropen said. In the same period this year, they received just 283.

That downward trend in surrenders could change come the new year.

Like many cities in California, Oakland has a rent-forgiveness statute in place to help people cope with the financial devastation wreaked by COVID, but it’s due to run out in a couple of months, which is bad news for many Bay Area pet owners. “We’re braced for an increase in surrender requests when the eviction moratorium lifts in January,” Aropen said.

“We’re located in one of the most expensive parts of the country,” she adds. “We’ve already seen people leaving the area [due to financial hardship] and can only suspect that will continue, possibly with even higher numbers in the coming months.”

That is, unless the city can provide some forms of assistance to help pet owners through the duration of the pandemic.

Photo credit: © Anna Gorbacheva/iStock/Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

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