Struggling pet owners giving up animals

Furever Homes volunteer Loanna Messman, of Edendale, with an unnamed puppy from a litter which...
Furever Homes volunteer Loanna Messman, of Edendale, with an unnamed puppy from a litter which has been surrendered to the pet charity. PHOTO: BEN TOMSETT
The sharp increase in the cost of living means some people can no longer afford to care for their pets, rehoming organisation Furever Homes says.

Its chairwoman Donna Keil said financial hardship had been a leading factor in people surrendering their pets, especially in recent months, and the organisation had been taking in new animals at least every second day.

"We’ve even had the extreme where someone’s had to put their animal down because they thought there were no other options," she said.

The first step in the surrendering process was for Furever Homes to ask the owners what the organisation could do to help them hold on to their pets, and many owners asked about temporary fostering, she said.

"It’s really traumatic for the animals as well, because they’re being taken out of a stable situation and suddenly everything’s different."

The organisation also helped provide food for the pets as well as other assistance where they could, including helping people in isolation, she said.

While rehoming organisations have been taking on more pets, the Invercargill City Council’s dog impoundments have almost halved compared with the same time last year, with the same total number of surrenders, although there has been a slight increase in the amount of dogs being rehomed.

"The increase we are seeing in dog owners not collecting their dogs or surrendering them is being seen across the South Island," council customer and environment group manager Trudie Hurst said.

"Rehoming agencies are repeatedly telling us that they are full, resulting in us having to hold dogs for longer periods of time awaiting a space for them," Ms Hurst said.

Furever Homes is a non-profit organisation and relies on volunteers and fundraising.

Mrs Keil said that aspect of the operation had been difficult during the pandemic, the organisation relying on collection tins at local businesses and donations made by supporters.

"If we have an animal we’re desperate for help with, we make a post on the page and then we get people donating and that’s their way of helping.

"The money comes when you’re doing the right thing and our focus is helping people and helping the animals."

Most of the people surrendering their animals have been reluctant to do so, and many of the pets have been older animals that the owners have had for years.

"For some people, they’re too scared to post [for help] on social media because they just get hammered and abused with ‘how could you give up your dog?’.

"They’re not bad animal owners, they’re amazing owners."


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