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A Surrey animal shelter says some dogs are staying too long as they wait for their forever homes, a change from the early days of the pandemic
Has the pandemic puppy party ended? A Surrey animal shelter says maybe so.

“After a flurry of adoptions at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Surrey’s animal shelter has seen a steady drop in adoptions, leading to months-long stays for some dogs,” says City of Surrey spokeswoman Amy Reid.

Reid says one dog, Honey, has been at the Surrey Animal Resource Centre for more than 250 days waiting for a permanent home.

Surrey’s mayor says the average stay for dogs at the shelter at the start of the pandemic was 11 days. “We’ve seen that steadily increase and there are several dogs who have been in the shelter for more than 100 days,” says Doug McCallum.

He reminded Surrey residents that there are plenty of animals who need a loving owner and are “sadly residing in our local shelter for far too long.”

“Honey was a ‘digger,’ prompting shelter staff to get creative and create a sandbox area,” says Reid in a press release. Honey and other dogs use the sandbox to hide and dig up toys and goof around.

“Sandboxes are a great option to deter dogs from digging, and dogs also use the sand to lay in and stay cool.”

And it’s not all bad news for all those B.C. Bellas and Beaus looking for homes as the pandemic wanes.

Lorie Chortyk of the B.C. SPCA says in general the wait for shelter dogs hasn’t gotten longer, with most still getting adopted “pretty quickly due to high demand.”

And all those pups that got picked up during the pandemic? They’re doing fine.

“Thankfully, we have not seen an increase in returns at all — if anything the number of returns (which was always very low) has decreased during the pandemic and in recent months,” says Chortyk, media manager for the B.C. SPCA.

“We worked very hard to make sure people understood the commitment they were taking on in adopting a pet and provided follow-up resources, such as how to help a pet deal with separation anxiety when their guardian returned to work outside the home.”

McCallum says the Surrey shelter has also worked hard to make life enjoyable for those pets dealing with lengthy stays.

“I am proud of our Surrey staff who have worked hard to enhance the quality of life for these animals, but what they truly need is a forever home.”

The shelter has even created an “enchanted forest” for the dogs made from 3,300 pounds of recycled tires donated by Kal Tire.

But despite those enrichments, dogs like Honey are not in their ideal place in a kennel.

“There can be long-term consequences for animals who stay in shelters for long periods, including an increased chance of behavioural problems developing,” says Reid.

Studies have also shown that animals’ immune systems can be impacted by long shelter stays, she says.

The Surrey shelter at 17944 Colebrook Rd. is open daily from noon to 5 p.m. It’s by appointment only during the pandemic, at 604-574-6622. You can donate to the shelter through Canada Helps or by phone.

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