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Animal rescues overwhelmed as families return their pandemic pups en masse

Rita Giordano, The Philadelphia Inquirer on

Published in Cats & Dogs News

PHILADELPHIA — The frustration jumped off the Instagram page:

"I have never ever seen this many people trying to dump their dogs," posted Jessica Mellen-Graaf of the Philly Bully Team dog rescue.

Already swamped, her rescue team had received 20 requests in 48 hours from owners who wanted to give up their dogs.

"We knew this could happen," she said. "I just don't think we thought it was going to be this bad."

In the early months of COVID-19, the near-emptying of the nation's animal shelters was one of the few bright spots in a dark time. ASPCA data suggest over 23 million American households acquired a pet during the pandemic.

But as pandemic restrictions receded, many are returning to the workplace or finding COVID has otherwise altered their circumstances.


Animal advocates are now scrambling to find volunteers to foster homeless dogs. Fewer people want to adopt. And local organizations say they're inundated with requests from owners to unload dogs they no longer want or feel able to keep.

"It's hard right now," said Marta Gambone of Phoenix Animal Rescue in Chester Springs.

Pet rescues and shelters help people giving up pets due to hardship, but Gambone and fellow advocates say a lot of the surrenders they're seeing now are a different story.

They are dogs like Nate, a playful, one-year-old German Shepherd turned over to Phoenix recently by his family.


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