Vets, breeders and animal adoption agencies are struggling to meet demand
MONTREAL -- The telephone has not stopped ringing with breeders and animal protection societies since the COVID-19 pandemic started, as people working from home rush to adopt animals that are becoming harder and harder to find.
Quebecers, many of whom work from home, are desperately trying to find a four-legged companion, and veterinarians and trainers are struggling to keep up with demand.
"It's adoption day. We were overwhelmed," said SPA des Cantons administrative director Anik Filion at the end of a busy day. "I put five cats up for adoption on Facebook yesterday at the end of the day, and this morning, between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m., my five cats were adopted. This afternoon, I put two dogs up for adoption. I already have one adopted, and the other one has dates until Saturday to meet families."
The demand for the animals has been very high since the start of the novel coronavirus health crisis and the situation continues.
"The pandemic is still here," she said. "People still suffer from loneliness. They also mention that they have a lot of time,"
The phenomenon is the same everywhere.
"I founded the SPCA 32 years ago and this is the first time that I have seen that we have fewer dogs," said Linda Robertson, who heads the SPCA Monteregie.
Large dogs are particularly popular.
A section that usually hosts 26 dogs now has only six, four of whom have had difficult lives and behaviour issues that are not quite ideal.
As for the puppies, don't even think about it.
"It's been some time since we saw some, '' she said.
The relationship with those who wish to adopt has changed. Before the pandemic, there were adoption days. However, the refuge is now looking for "a family that goes with the animals we have."
At the Eastern Townships SPA, an animal is adopted almost as soon as it is received.
"When the animal arrives for adoption, it spends around 48 hours maximum here," said spokesperson Marie-Pier Quirion.
Stay times for the animals have become so short that some are sometimes adopted before employees even have time to photograph them and post an ad on the website.
"They're going really fast," said Quirion.
As for the established breeders, everyone The Canadian Press spoke to described a never-before-seen demand.
"I can tell you, it's madness and it's been like that for a while," said Louise LaBranche, the owner of Vom Branche breeding, in Maricourt, in the Eastern Townships.
LaBranche, who breeds wire-haired dachshunds, says she receives between eight and 10 calls each day from interested buyers, not counting emails.
However, all the puppies expected in 2021 are sold. She even has a waiting list.
The breeder has three of her females mate once a year, although they are in heat twice a year. Litters average five puppies.
In Saint-Lazare, west of Montreal, Julie Sansregret, a Hungarian Pointer breeder, a breed from the hunting dog family, is experiencing a similar situation.
"I have had three requests a day since March to place dogs," she said.
There is however a slight problem: her female only has one litter per year and gives birth to an average of six puppies. The waiting list has a hundred names, and she is only responding to requests dating back to 2018.
Where Sansregret sees a "baby dog boom right now" is at the Guides Canines training school where she is co-owner. She said the demand for help is "exponential."
Dog training courses are given individually to comply with pandemic health measures.
Veterinarians are also under incredible pressure due to the large number of dogs and cats adopted since the start of the pandemic, said Association des Médecins Veterinaires du Québec spokesperson Dr. Michel Pepin.
His colleagues are no longer able to offer basic services. "Before, you called a vet, and you had an appointment in two hours. After that, it's two days. Worse, now, it's two weeks," he said.
Although injured, sick or endangered animals are still treated same day, sterilizations, vaccinations and other preventive acts are postponed, so that some owners give up, which could cause other problems at later dates.
This backlog comes without taking into account that veterinarians already existed in an "already extremely fragile ecosystem," said DMV Veterinary Center's Noel Grospeiller.
The DMV in Lachine offers emergency medical services.
"The veterinary world is going through a huge crisis," he said. "We have been short-staffed - veterinarians and animal health technicians - for 20 years."
Grospeiller said COVID-19 has made the situation simply "untenable."
"The teams are exhausted. There is a lot of burnout. Everyone is recruiting hard, but there is no one to recruit," he said.
His organization has launched a petition titled "Laisse Orange Leash" in the last few days to raise public awareness of this reality and to ask governments to increase the capacity of training programs.
In the meantime, campaign organizers are asking people to show patience and compassion with the staff.
-- this report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 28, 2020.