A bill in Albany would ban pet stores from selling...

 A bill in Albany would ban pet stores from selling dogs, cats or rabbits and instead allow those shops to show pets for adoption. Credit: Newsday/John Paraskevas

Pup-centric social media posts illustrate a sad trend among Long Island and New York City dog owners.

One says she “underestimated” the time she had to give to a puppy and now is seeking a new home for him. Another has three children and after buying a black Labrador, found he “couldn’t take care of him” any longer. 

As with many people, they thought the COVID-19 pandemic was the perfect time to welcome a pet. 

But now, a disconcerting shift is occurring. As people return to the office, or resume busy lives, some are seeking to “rehome” their dogs, cats, rabbits, and hamsters.

Rehome. It makes giving up a pet sound simple and without consequence. But too often, it results in a family pet ending up back in a shelter — or worse.

Yet, some rescue agencies haven't seen the rehoming trend.

Take PupStarz Rescue — with whom my family worked in the spring of 2020 when we adopted our mixed-breed pup, Sirius. Had PupStarz not rescued him from a Tennessee shelter, Sirius likely would have been killed. About 1 million shelter animals in the United States are euthanized each year.

PupStarz co-founder Constance Millinor says its adopters haven't given up their pets, likely thanks to extensive work volunteers do before finalizing any adoption.

“A lot of dogs are getting returned now because the dogs weren’t trained properly or have separation anxiety,” Millinor said. “They’ve never been left alone. And that makes it much more difficult to get them adopted again.”

Before we rescued a pup, we did our homework. So did PupStarz: An extensive background check. A virtual home visit. A lengthy discussion about training, socialization, exercise, and, yes, how to leave the dog alone.

Even that's not foolproof. Some dogs are harder to train or overly anxious. Some families suffer from unforeseen medical, financial or other complications.

Beyond such extreme situations, Millinor said there are ways to work through most challenges, to keep a pup, rather than default to giving him away. 

It's too easy nowadays to give up, to jump from one thing to the next or dispose of what's not working without finding ways to fix it. In a society more committed to what's important, we might just refuse to let go when times get tough. 

“Dogs are forever,” Millinor said. “You brought home a family member. You don’t throw family away. The rescuing is about pulling the dogs from the shelter and providing them loving homes for the rest of their lives.”

Millinor’s words are particularly powerful with a bill in Albany waiting Gov. Kathy Hochul’s action that would ban retail pet stores from selling dogs, cats or rabbits and instead allow those shops to showcase pets up for adoption.

The bill, which has been the subject of intense lobbying, addresses issues beyond the current rehoming trend, issues that shouldn't be up for debate — the importance of rescuing and adopting from reputable organizations, stopping puppy mill operations, saving dogs and cats from euthanasia or other horrors, and making sure new pet owners understand the commitment they're making.

Like many pups, Sirius loves to cuddle, play, and sniff the world around him. He loves treats and occasional food scraps. He hates street cleaning trucks and leaf blowers. He'll stay home alone and enjoys doggy day care.

He found his family, his "furever" home.

Millions of shelter animals deserve theirs, too — but only if "furever" really means forever.

Columnist Randi F. Marshall's opinions are her own.


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