The pandemic downtime led to a boom in pet ownership. Now, as things start returning to normal, there’s a corresponding increase in pets in need of new homes.
Hobo Haven Pet Rescue founder Chris Schaefer has seen firsthand that increase in pets needing foster homes in the last year. The organization has taken in numerous pets whose owners just didn’t have enough time for the animals once life began returning to a pre-pandemic state.
“The last couple of years have been horrifyingly overwhelming. We are entirely dependent on foster homes – how many we can help depends on how many fosters we have. We’ve had as many as 16 in rescue in any given month. But we also have had months where we’ve only been able to accept three or four due to lack of fosters,” she said. “How many we’re asked to help is literally in the thousands every year but, unfortunately, being foster-based we sadly have to turn away more than we can help. We are always in dire need of fosters.
“We do all the work with shelters who are overwhelmed or also just with dogs that are not doing well in a shelter environment, which is very common. We don’t have a facility, we don’t run kennels. Every single animal goes into a foster family home and is cared for like a beloved family member while we complete all their vetting, work on their training, do a full temperament assessment, before they’re available for adoption.”
Hobo Haven Rescue started in 2003 in St. Jacobs after Schaefer saw a need to provide foster homes for dogs in the community, many of whom came with some high vet bills from injuries.
“We’re also a medical rescue, so we take in animals, like Quincy, for example, who was so badly injured. There is no funding for that. It all comes out of our pockets, my pocket to be specific, and his vet bills with his surgery and rehab and medications – and then he had to go in for rehab therapy – he exceeded $6,000 easily. We currently have a puppy who came in with a femoral head fracture at nine months old and he is getting a total hip replacement when his body is mature enough to be able to have that surgery; he is estimated at probably $9,000, as an example of the expenses that a lot of people don’t realize happen in rescue.
“It’s not just the usual vaccines and rabies – when you do medical rescue you take everybody that didn’t get help. It is humane and reasonable to provide the vet care to give them quality of life. We will accept them whenever possible.”
Schaefer saw a rise in dogs surrendered after people started going back to work, noting it’s not always the owner’s choice: many don’t have time and some have lost wages. The pet rescues have seen a pattern emerging in the dogs surrendered to them over the last year.
“I would have to say the largest surrender with the COVID impact is behavioural. And that goes across shelters and every rep I work with, a lot of rescues across Ontario and even up in Manitoba – everybody has seen the dogs just weren’t given the training and the socializing. Now that’s causing behavioural problems. They have separation anxiety because the efforts weren’t put in to help them learn how to be alone when people were at home, and people are just not prepared to work with that.”
In a bid to keep dogs with short fur warm this winter, Hobo Haven’s Coats for Canines campaign has taken off. Anyone with old or used dog coats can drop them off to Schaefer at Creature Comforts in St. Jacobs to help out a foster dog in need or a future foster dog. Some of the coats go to other pet rescues and shelters in need. Something a little different, this year they will be selling used dog coats to the public for a small price that helps provide funding for Hobo Haven.
“It was initially started a few years ago, similar to the human coats for people who are in need. It was initially a drive for our own fosters because we go through a lot of apparel. Sometimes it goes home with the family just to have their familiar scent with it. We need clothing for the animals so they can have their walks and be warm and safe. Then it expanded into working with pet food banks so that if we had a surplus that we weren’t in need of we would share with pet food banks to distribute to families who couldn’t afford or didn’t have clothing for their own pets,” she explained.
Senior dogs also benefit from Coats for Canines, as they are at high risk of hypothermia as they get older and aren’t able to regulate their body temperatures as well as a young dog, noted Schaefer.
Hobo Haven is still recovering from a theft two years ago that cost them of all their supplies for foster dogs. Thanks to the community’s generosity they were able to quickly get back on their feet to help more animals in need.
“We had a break-in two years ago that cleaned out our entire shed. The community was amazing; people that had used crates and things like that were just amazing to help out to replenish what was stolen. We’re still replenishing some of the supplies, but thanks to our community we were almost immediately able to step right back into functioning mode,” said Schaefer, acknowledging the community support.