If you adopted a pet during the pandemic, you aren't alone.
At the BC SPCA Sea to Sky Community Animal Centre, pets have been adopted out faster than they are coming in.
The Squamish-based facility completed 329 adoptions in 2020, up from 278 in 2019.
It is a positive in a difficult year, says Krista Unser, the Sea to Sky branch manager.
"Adoptions have been just crazy; we can hardly keep animals in care, which is very, very positive," she said.
The Squamish-based shelter, which focuses on cats, kittens, and small animals, also serves Britannia Beach, Pemberton, and Mount Currie.
Large local animals head to an SPCA farm in Surrey.
Second Chance Cheekye Ranch also helps out, Unser said.
The most unusual pets they have seen lately are hedgehogs.
"Which are not very normal for us to see," she said, noting hedgehogs are not easy to keep as pets.
"BCSPCA has a program called Drives for Lives. What they do is they transfer animals down from our smaller branches such as in the Interior and up North. They bring them down to the Lower Mainland and the Fraser Valley, where they have a better opportunity of being adopted, and also, we have larger shelters so we can take in more animals. That is where the majority of our animals come from."
Unser said the cats may be strays or surrendered, adding Squamish sees a lot of felines from the Williams Lake area.
"It is kind of random and a multitude of different situations," she said.
Animals usually come in on Thursdays, and by Sunday, the shelter is empty.
On average, each animal receives 30 to 40 applications for adoption, Unser said.
Even older cats, which usually have to stay in the shelter a bit longer before they are chosen, are going quickly.
"We've had guinea pigs and rabbits and mice, some rats and a few birds," she said. "They are actually going quite quickly as well."
Those wishing to adopt usually say they are looking to adopt from the Squamish shelter now because they are home more.
"Cats are a very good option for people because they are lower maintenance, so it isn't quite the same responsibility as it would be with a dog," she said, noting if things change and people are sent back to the office, a cat is going to adapt better than a dog being left.
Adults without children at home are looking to adopt, she said, not just families with kids.
"I bet you it is half and half," she said. "We're getting a lot of adults who are taking on small animals as well."
Unser stressed that while animals are being adopted quickly, there is still a stringent adoption process.
"It is not like we are just handing these animals over to people," she said.
"We are still being very serious about making sure we are doing matches."
Pets are work for their people
With Easter approaching, Unser noted that not all pets are ideal for bringing home.
"Things like rabbits, baby chicks and ducklings and that sort of thing are not appropriate," she said. "Rabbits are a lot of work. I don't think people realize that they are time-consuming and... are a lot of work."
The BC SPCA advocates for rabbits being inside pets, not kept in a hutch outside, she added.
"We aren't looking at a rabbit hut. We are looking at an exercise area that can be set up for the rabbit... And they aren't necessarily the best family pet as well because they are not going to be cuddly like a dog. They aren't going to be cat-like."
For the most part, rabbits aren't very social, she said.
"It is something that people should really do a ton of research on — house rabbits — before they look at getting."
Kids spring camps
In lieu of in-person summer camps, the SPCA is holding Spring Break Camps online for kids aged eight to 11.
The first week is March 15 to the 19.
The second week is March 22 to 26.
(Daily live sessions run 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. & 1 to 2 p.m.)
"It is games, activities; they can meet animals. There are shelter tours, guest speakers," she said.
Adopting from foreign countries?
Unser said a concern with adopting pets from outside Canada is the risk of disease.
"Potentially, these animals could be bringing in unknown diseases," she said.
And these dogs may often require a lot of work to overcome their behaviour challenges if they were street dogs somewhere else.
She recommends potential owners do a lot of research before leaping foreign adoption.
"There is going to be a lot of fear; they could be food reactive. There could be a lot of things that go on with them," she said, adding that there are animals in B.C. that need a home.
"Sometimes, it just takes some patience and some time," she said, acknowledging waiting for a furry family member is especially hard during this pandemic.
The Squamish shelter does still see heartbreaking stories — about one a month — of people surrendering their pet because they have to move away from Squamish or because they can't find housing that will accept their pet.
"It is heartbreaking for them, and our heart breaks for them as well," she said. "A lot of times they have gone to friends, and they have gone to family and tried to re-home, and they are not having any luck. It is sad."
The local shelter has always had pet food and supplies available at low cost for those who are financially challenged caring for their pet.
In 2020, they were able to expand that program.
"In the last year, we have basically gone from [helping] two communities to helping eight, and we have given away over two tonnes of pet food."
They serve communities from Squamish up past D'Arcy, she said.
"Which has been amazing. We are so glad we were able to help them," she said.
Food and supplies are available at Squamish Nation Totem Hall, she noted.
Anyone who needs help caring for their pet can pick it up there or contact the Squamish centre (604-898-9890).
[Due to COVID-19, the doors of the 1005 B Industrial Way shelter are locked. Animal-lovers must book an appointment to come in.]
Spay and neuter options
The low-cost spay and neuter program was put on hold due to the pandemic as local vets' offices had to close or reduce operations, but the program is set to pick back up.
The fee is based on a sliding scale according to income and is meant for those unable to afford the typical cost for the surgeries.
To support the Sea to Sky Community Animal Centre, donate online or arrange to drop off a donation.
For those who want to ensure the funds stay in the corridor, dropping off in person is the best option.
There is also the BCSPCA Champions with third-party fundraising.