Not so fast! Stop and think before adopting a pooch, Winnipeg Animal Sevices urges

As the number of pets in shelters continues to surge nationwide, Winnipeg Animal Services wants people to make sure they have the time and resources to care for pets, and to spend some time with an animal before bringing it home.

“It’s like adding a new family member,” said Leland Gordon, general manager of Winnipeg Animal Services.

“Lots of people adopted dogs and cats during the pandemic and we were all keeping our paws crossed that they would not end up back in animal shelters.

“But, unfortunately, some people didn’t ask themselves, ‘Do I have a stable home? Am I prepared to keep my dog for its whole life? Do I have the financial resources to pay for vet care, vaccinations and heart worm prevention?'”

Winnipeg Animal Services general manager Leland Gordon says animal shelters across Canada are filling up with unwanted dogs and cats following a surge in pet ownership during the pandemic. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

Gordon says it can cost $50-$80 a month to feed a dog with high-quality food, while annual shots and veterinary bills can run as high as $1,000 a year.

“Unfortunately, there’s a handful of people across Canada didn’t that didn’t think of those things, and now animal shelters are having to deal with those unwanted dogs,” Gordon said.

The shelter at 1057 Logan Avenue held a special dog sale Saturday to help find some pooches their forever home. 

For $175, people could adopt a dog with a pet licence, microchip, spay or neuter, basic shots, food and pet health insurance — all taken care of. That’s about $100 less than the usual charge, Gordon said.

Anna and Bobby Kostiuk were at the dog sale to help pick out a pooch for a relative and donated supplies to the shelter, including detergent and dog collars. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

Bobby Kostiuk, 7, was at the sale with his 11-year-old sister, Anna. They were helping their aunt find a dog, and the boy already knew which ones he liked best.

“Huskies and German Shepherds,” Bobby said with a grin. “I like them because they’re cute, fun and very playful.”

Anna said she enjoyed meeting all of the 20 or so dogs in the kennels, and wondered what it’s like for the animals when the shelter isn’t holding a public event. 

“I guess it would get lonely on days other than this,” she said. “I just want them to all get homes, because they’re all doggies and they all deserve homes.”

The family brought along supplies on the shelter’s wish list, including laundry detergent, collars, leashes and dog food.

Liam Tardi and his dad Christian play ball l in the shelter yard with a bouncy puppy named Spice, and say they might come back with the dog they already have to see how the two canines get along. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

Another boy, Liam Tardi, was at the shelter with his dad, playing in the yard with a big, bouncy puppy named Spice. 

“She looks nice,” the small boy said, clearly smitten with the blonde, mixed-breed pup. “She likes to play ball.”

His father, Christian, also seemed charmed by Spice, whom he affectionately called “goofy,” but he wasn’t ready to take her home yet. 

The family already has a dog, and shelter staff encouraged them to come back with that pet to see whether the two canines hit it off.

“It’s a good opportunity to come out here and actually be able to experience the dogs in person,” said Christian Tardi. “There weren’t opportunities like that with other agencies.”

Winnipeg Animal Services also offers people a chance to take a dog home for a while before taking the leap into pet ownership. 

Matthew Massicotte looked after a dog for 2½ weeks before returning to the shelter Saturday to officially adopt Cody, a German Shepherd mix. The young dog had already spent five months at the shelter.

Cody, a German Shepherd mix, spent five months at the WAS shelter before being adopted by a loving owner. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

“By the end of the first day he was coming into my bed and we were cuddling up,” Massicotte said, grinning widely. 

“Just coming home to him every day since has been awesome. Having him just greeting me, jumping up and down, so excited. It’s been amazing.”

Massicotte said he wanted to make sure Cody’s personality and energy levels matched his, but he also did the math to check to be certain keeping the dog would fit in his budget.

“I just bought a house and I was weighing it all out,” the school teacher said. “That was probably probably a month of just making sure it all made sense before I ended up pulling the trigger.”

It’s exactly what Winnipeg Animal Services hopes people do to avoid putting animals at risk.

Gordon says complaints of stray cats and dogs have also surged in recent months, the same time period when more Winnipeggers returned to the workplace.

“It’s critical that before people add a pet to their family, they really are ready to make that lifelong commitment,” he said.

Massicotte says he has no doubt he and Cody will be friends for life.

“I come home a lot happier, and he’s really helped me to balance my lifestyle,” he said.

“I get out more in the morning, to get a walk in, and after work, we’re going for another walk,” he said, adding that Cody has already made a slew of friends in the neighbourhood. 

“It’s just been awesome all around.”