(Australian Associated Press)
Australians continue to turn to pet ownership for company amid enduring COVID-19 lockdowns.
Demand for dogs, cats, kittens and puppies at the Melbourne-based Lost Dogs’ Home reached a decade-long high in August, with 416 adoptions.
The home also recorded 92 dog adoptions last month – the highest figure since the coronavirus pandemic began.
Demand could soon outweigh supply, with the number of dogs coming into the group’s Cranbourne and North Melbourne shelters down 12 per cent in August, Lost Dogs’ Home spokeswoman Suzana Talevski said.
There’s also about a 10-day wait to adopt a cat or kitten from the home, which rehomed more than 200 felines in August.
Ms Talevski said while she understood the delay could be frustrating, the home remained focused on minimising returns.
Odette Shenfield, who picked up a rehomed mini-poodle called Pip in January last year, said her new furry friend had been her “number one” support during Victoria’s ongoing lockdowns.
“Seeing a dog be so joyous over the simplest things, even just at getting up in the morning, brings so much light to what can otherwise feel like quite a heavy time,” Ms Shenfield told AAP.
“I grew up with a dog and have always been a huge dog-lover.
“I got really set on the idea of having a dog and thought it’d be really good for my quality of life and mental health.”
But the 27-year-old Melbourne woman said it was important for people to consider whether they were ready for the commitment and responsibility that comes with pet adoption.
This was especially the case, she said, if life outside of lockdown isn’t suitable for owning a pet.
“Pets are their own sentient beings with their own needs and it’s important to recognise that,” Ms Shenfield said.
“Fostering can sometimes be a good option to consider for people unsure about the commitment and responsibility.”
The Lost Dogs’ Home in August reported a growing number of people returning their adopted pets, some within one to three days, because the new owners didn’t know how to cope with the animal’s behaviour.
A study published by the University of South Australia in November found pets can play a crucial role during the pandemic, when human contact is restricted.
“Pets seem to be particularly important when people are socially isolated or excluded, providing comfort, companionship and a sense of self-worth,” lead author Janette Young said.
“Touch is an understudied sense, but existing evidence indicates it is crucial for growth, development and health, as well as reducing the levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the body.
“It is also thought that touch may be particularly important for older people as other senses decline.”