During the COVID-19 pandemic, things got lonely for a lot of people.
With all the time in the world and nothing to do, many tried to fill the void by adopting cats and dogs. It is estimated that about three in 10 Canadians adopted a pet during the pandemic.
Since the pandemic has moved to an endemic stage and people have begun to return to work, animal shelters across Canada are seeing a surge in people drop-offs—Pemberton included.
“We've noticed since COVID we are having an issue with pandemic puppies and cats. So like, around that one and a half, two year age group, that people adopted during the pandemic when they were at home with all the time in the world and now realizing that animals are a big commitment and not being able to provide them with the care anymore. So that's been huge,” said Pemberton Animal Wellbeing Society (PAWS) shelter manager Anna Scott.
“It's one of the slowest years for adoptions. Usually, puppies and kittens are a hot commodity, and people want to adopt them, but even with puppies and kittens, I've had very little applications, and so everything is slow. Animals are staying in our care for way too long right now, which is really unfortunate,” said Scott.
Founded 15 years ago, PAWS is a non-profit, volunteer-run organization that provides shelter and animal adoption for cats and dogs across the Pemberton Valley and region.
The shelter currently has about 10 to 20 volunteers and more than 10 animals in its care, which has put it at capacity. All 10 animals, including two dogs and six cats, are available for adoption.
“The shelter is quite small ... we have a couple kennels inside for cats, and a very small isolation area for cats inside. It's basically just two rooms,” said Scott.
“Our dogs live outside in insulated, all-weather dog sheds that we got built last year. So we only really have room for two dogs at a time outside. So yeah, it's pretty small."
While the shelter does the best it can with the space it has, right now the struggle is in finding enough volunteers.
"I know it sounds like a lot having 10 to 20 people, but everyone is so busy with their own lives that sometimes people can't put in a whole lot of time. So yeah, it's a bit of a struggle right now,” Scott said.
Scott believes with Pemberton and the surrounding region growing rapidly, the shelter may have to expand to handle the additional animals that come along with population growth. Between 2016 and 2021, Pemberton grew by 32.4 per cent.
“We would like to expand, but right now, we've just received funding for one part-time paid position. So it's an ongoing thing," Scott said.
"We're obviously growing, and I think Pemberton is going to need to look at making some changes and maybe paying a few more positions because we could expand, but it's difficult because we can't expand if it's still a volunteer-run society completely.”
If you would like to volunteer with the animal shelter or would like to adopt an animal, you can find more information at pawspemberton.com