'There's fosters leaving left, right and centre': Pet surrender requests and COVID-19 lead to increased need for animal fosters in Edmonton

A staggering number of pet surrenders amid the COVID-19 pandemic has led to an increased need for animal foster homes in Edmonton, according to one local rescue.

Edmonton Sun 3 minute read December 26, 2021

These two domestic rabbits are being fostered by Katryna Patterson, a volunteer with Infinite Woofs Animal Rescue Society, until they are adopted. Larry Wong / POSTMEDIA NETWORK

A staggering number of pet surrenders amid the COVID-19 pandemic has led to an increased need for animal foster homes in Edmonton, according to one local rescue.

Katryna Patterson, who volunteers as a small animal foster for Infinite Woofs Animal Rescue Society (IWARS) in the city, said she currently has seven rabbits living with her — the most she’s ever had at one time.

“I have three foster rabbits and four rabbits of my own. They’re really busy right now,” said Patterson.

The need for her to care for three rabbits at a time is partially due to the lack of foster homes available, she added.

“There’s fosters leaving left, right and centre,” said Patterson. “I don’t necessarily know all the personal reasons as to why, but I would definitely say a lot of it is probably COVID-related. People seem to be moving, a lot of the people I meet in passing, some of them are downsizing and they can’t keep the animals.”

IWARS hasn’t been taking in new rabbits since springtime and Patterson said once one rabbit is adopted there is always another needing a home.

Volunteer fosters are responsible for taking care of animals until they are adopted, including taking them to the necessary vet appointments.

Alisha Petryshyn, admin team member and cat foster with IWARS, said the need for dog and cat foster homes is also high.

She said surrender requests, specifically for dogs, have skyrocketed this year and there is no sign of it slowing down.

During the summer and early fall, the rescue was receiving 70 to 80 dog surrender requests per month, compared to about 30 per month prior to the pandemic.

“I’d say it’s like two prongs — there’s a lot of owner surrenders for specific reasons and then there’s kind of the stray population that has kind of exploded in many areas, especially more rural and remote areas,” said Petryshyn.

Petryshyn said more than 400 dogs were adopted from IWARS in 2020 and if they had more foster homes available they probably would have been able to take triple the number of adoption requests.

“In all worlds, but for the dog team, we turn away dogs pretty much on a daily basis just because we don’t have enough foster homes or we aren’t able to support, for example, a very critical medical patient at this time,” Petryshyn said. “We don’t have a shelter and all of our fosters go directly into homes so we need to have available and appropriate homes for all animals before we can commit.”

Anyone interested in fostering can fill out the application form under the volunteer tab on the rescues’ website at www.infinitewoofs.com, reach out to them on Facebook or contact them at info.iwar@gmail.com.

ktaniguchi@postmedia.com

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