Animal shelters in overdrive as owners abandon pets after summer holidays

Animal shelters in overdrive as owners abandon pets after summer holidays
A dog in a shelter. Credit: Belga/Maxime Asselberghs

The summer holiday period is unfortunately one of the busiest times for animal shelters when it comes to dealing with animal abandonment.

Along with the winter vacations, when pets bought as Christmas presents are abandoned after the festive period, the summer is a time when many animals are dumped, as people start to return to work and realise that they do not have enough time for their pets or are just not as interested in it anymore.

On average, 165 animals are abandoned every day in Belgium. Increasingly, people are also dumping their animals for financial reasons.

"This year, we have been called non-stop,” said Fabrizio Follaccio, director of the Belgian organisation Help Animals. “We have people who are overwhelmed by financial difficulties, and who have to abandon their animals."

Surrendering pets

Animals are often either left on the streets, in vacant properties or in remote areas where no one can see them being dumped. Dogs and cats including puppies and kittens have been found in rubbish bins, on motorways, or tied to park benches. It is rare that pet abandonment is directly witnessed as pet owners tend to act when no one is around.

Some pets are dropped off at animal shelters, in what is known as "surrendering." Bringing unwanted dogs, cats and small mammals to a reputable animal shelter means that the animals will be taken care of, that they will be fed and have a warm place to sleep. The animals also have a much better chance of finding a new home by being adopted through shelters.

However, many shelters are overcrowded, or are lacking funds to take care of the animals well and may resort to euthanasia to control the number of animals coming into their care.

This is not helped by the fact that some owners choose to dump their pets outside animal shelters or rescue organisations, in the hope that they will take care of them.

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Aside from the regular house pets such as cats and dogs, it is not uncommon at Help Animals to come across exotic animals, such as Vietnamese pigs. "

The problem is that it's a fashion on the internet, little pigs running everywhere,” said Follaccio. “Then the pig grows, and it takes up a lot of space and time. People get more than they bargained for."

There are also more and more records of abuse or neglect, such as a horse that recently arrived at the shelter and was left without water or food in her pasture when her owners went away on holiday.

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