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Thinking Of Returning A Pandemic Pet To A Shelter? Consider These Remedies First

Sarah Mirk

At the start of the pandemic, local animal shelters saw an uptick in homebodies adopting cats and dogs. With more time at home, people felt it was the ideal time to add a new member to the household.

Thinking Of Returning A Pandemic Pet To A Shelter? Consider These Remedies First
Listen for tips on helping your pet adjust to changes brought on by the pandemic.

Pets provide something for a family or an individual to care for and can be a source of fun and pleasurable activity. They’re also a source of constancy and comfort during frightening times.

But as people start spending more time away from home, go on vacations and in many cases are sent back to work at offices, pets are needing to adjust to less time with their owners at home.

And in some cases, the humans and animals are actually parting ways, as some families decide they’re in over their heads and end up returning animals to shelters.

“It's not easy on the pet. And I'm sure it's not easy for the adopter to make that decision either. But there are so many other resources to kind of explore before resorting to surrendering your pet to a shelter,” Stray Rescue's director of operations, Andrea Wilkey, said on Monday’s St. Louis on the Air.

She shared some advice for pandemic pet owners, and particularly dog owners, with St. Louis Public Radio executive editor Shula Neuman.

  1. Start with finding a quiet place, either one you create within a given area or by designating a separate room.
  2. Put dogs in their crate or designated room and step outside for five minutes. Then check back in with them so “they kind of realize that you will come back and that you aren't leaving them forever.”
  3. Work up over time on longer intervals.
  4. Work on visual cues: Pick up keys or put on shoes, so that they know you're leaving. “Even if you're staying home the rest of the night,” Wilkey said, “picking up your keys, putting on your shoes, and then just cooking dinner and not actually leaving, it kind of takes away the drama of that, too, whenever it does become time to leave.”
  5. When you are at home, make sure to provide pets with mental and visual stimulation.

Listener Jennifer wrote in on theSt. Louis on the AirFacebook page with an example of the lack of socialization her pandemic pups are dealing with: “We’re struggling to overcome fear of strangers with one of our dogs who is just 8 months old and had very little interaction with strangers for the first six months of her life.”

For such situations, Wilkey recommended various sources for post-adoption training sessions on Stray Rescue’s website. The center’s trainers provide pet owners, including ones who didn’t adopt from the center, with various training opportunities.

One such activity is their “pack walks,” where trainers lead group walking sessions.

“It's a way for animals to socialize with other animals as well as other people,” Wilkey explained. “It's also a way that you can ask our trainers questions, and get [dogs to] socialize with other animals being in close proximity.”

“Once you kind of learn a safe way to introduce them to new people and new animals, you can kind of practice that on your own in different environments, as long as you feel comfortable with the routine.”

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan. Paola Rodriguez is our production assistant. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

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Lara is the Engagement Editor at St. Louis Public Radio.