During that dreadful time after March 2020, many office employees began working from home. As more and more offices closed to keep as many people safe as possible from COVID-19, working from home became more and more prevalent and created an at-home atmosphere where workers who would normally spend time each day commuting found themselves not even needing to leave their homes for work. Home deliveries also exploded during this time as Americans took advantage of home delivery of goods needed to keep safe and avoid contact with others.
With time constraints removed, many choose to get home pets during this time since they would be able to take care of them and enjoy pets more since commute times were gone and everyone was going to be home. So, for as much as a year or so, many dogs were adopted or purchased as home pets. That was great as dogs found new families as people who had been putting off getting a dog because of a lack of time suddenly had time for a pet.
More than 23 million American households added a cat or dog during the pandemic, according to A.S.P.C.A. (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), and many of those animals have never known what it is like to be left alone at home all day once workers began returning to the office.
Today, animal shelters are seeing dogs being returned to shelters by frustrated owners, and pet sales websites are filling up with listings. As life returns more to ‘normal’ or the ‘new normal’, time constraints are back, and dog ownership is no longer easy for some.
Many owners didn’t bother to find new homes and sadly we have heard that dogs were simply driven somewhere and set free to fend for themselves. This is a whole other topic, but that reality has caused an increase in dogs running loose across our region.
In Merrillville, limited funding is always an issue. And like most municipalities, we struggle with how to deal with loose dogs, where to care for them, and how to find a shelter when needed, with most of them already inundated with dogs and their own budgetary issues, to take our strays. The town council is investigating the costs associated with not only building a kennel, but how to pay for the maintenance and upkeep, food-related costs, and veterinarian costs that the town could incur when strays need medical attention. Suggestions by animal lovers who attended the February 14 Town Council meeting, said that funding could be obtained by many groups interested in the care for animals, and the town and Police Chief have vowed to work with this group to find solutions.
The police department has recently reinstalled our K-9 program. We have a love for dogs, and we are committed to finding solutions. Stay tuned for updates! -Rick Bella, Town Council President, Ward 5 Representative