Increase in number of pets surrendered due to behavioural concerns

Published on 9 May 2022

RSPCA Victoria concerned that lack of socialisation for pets during the pandemic is the cause

Long lockdowns may be linked to an increase in animals being surrendered to RSPCA Victoria shelters due to behavioural concerns.

The animal welfare charity has noted that while overall numbers of surrendered animals are lower, surrenders due to animal behaviour are at 45%, up from just 25% two years previously and before the pandemic.

Pet owners are reporting concerns with separation anxiety, dog reactivity and destructive behaviour, reasons which can be linked to poor socialisation during the critical first few years of a dog’s life.

RSPCA Victoria’s Head of Operations, Tanya Drakopoulos, says that even older dogs who exhibited no concerning behaviours pre-pandemic have left lockdown unable to cope with the changes in their routine.

“With owners spending the better part of two years at home with their pets, many dogs have struggled with the recent change in routine as more people head into the office during the week. Fewer trips to the dog park, cafes and beach during lockdowns also mean that dogs may not cope as well with human or dog interaction as they once did,” Ms Drakopoulos said.

“Socialisation is particularly critical for young puppies in those first 3-17 weeks of life. Puppies purchased during the pandemic have not experienced the sights, sounds and smells of a busy lockdown-free world. This has made the adjustment to normal life stressful for these young dogs.”

RSPCA Victoria practices a judgment-free surrender process and will never turn away an animal that ends up at the doors of one of its five shelters across the state.

“Surrendering a pet is never easy, and for many families it’s their last resort. But sometimes surrendering an animal can be what is best for them. RSPCA Victoria can work with its foster care network to address behavioural issues and find the pet a new family that will be able to cater to their needs,” Ms Drakopoulos said.

RSPCA Victoria was very pleased with the high rates of adoption during the pandemic and prioritised educating adopters on how to manage common behavioural concerns such as separation anxiety. If pet owners are struggling, they are encouraged to reach out to a vet or a force-free behaviourist for tips and guidance on how to address these concerns, or to contact RSPCA Victoria by calling 9224 2222.

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