September 23, 2021

The Real Crisis

Every couple of weeks or so, I receive a call from a reporter or producer. Invariably, it’s because they want to do a story about pandemic puppies: the thousands of dogs supposedly surrendered to shelters by owners returning to work who no longer want their pets. I calmly explain that this story isn’t real, not at the Ottawa Humane Society, and not at any shelter in the country that I am aware of.

Then I try to pitch one or more stories about the real issues for dogs during the health crisis:

  • Dogs purchased from puppy mills or other disreputable breeders;
  • Puppies flown to Canada en masse to meet local demand, arriving sick, dead or dying at our airports;
  • Dogs experiencing distress, including separation anxiety, related to abrupt changes in routine;
  • Dogs behaving fearfully or even aggressively in routine social interactions as a result of under-socialization; or,
  • The shortage of veterinary care in the community.

The reporters don’t exactly hang up on me, but it feels like it. I guess the reality for dogs during COVID just isn’t as exciting or newsworthy as the persistent myth.

Recently though, that myth has become reality — but not for dogs — for rabbits.

Over the past few months, the OHS shelter and many other shelters in Ontario have seen a dramatic increase in the number of rabbits surrendered. Many of us are running out of space for them and it is on the verge of becoming a crisis.

Our friends and partners across the province have a few theories. It may be that people bought rabbits for the same reason they bought dogs: companionship for themselves and their children during lockdowns. Maybe they couldn’t find or afford a dog and bought a rabbit instead. Perhaps the demand for pets brought breeders into the business of breeding and selling rabbits.

Whatever the reason, there is a crisis — a pandemic bunny crisis.  

Reporters, are you listening?

Bruce Roney

President & CEO

P.S. Rabbits make great pets and all rabbits available for adoption from the OHS are sterilized.