High energy huskies crowd shelters
These aesthetic large dogs take longer to rehabilitate than other breeds
By EMILY BEST
Waves of abandoned huskies are overwhelming shelters and BC SPCA branches around the Lower Mainland amidst adoption rates that are lower than normal.
The Richmond branch of the BC SPCA and the Delta Community Animal Shelter have been particularly hit hard by an uptick of abandoned huskies appearing in recurring locations around Delta and farmland areas in Richmond.
“It’s really hard to find homes, especially for huskies, because their breed themselves is a very energetic, very active breed,” said Erin Leoppky, an animal care attendant at the Delta shelter. “When they do not have the right stimulation or that kind of thing, they can be quite destructive and loud and get into trouble.”
Animal shelters across the province are experiencing the lowest adoption rates seen since the summer of 2022 according to the BC SPCA.
Leo Cheung, an animal conservation officer at Richmond BC SPCA, says the huskies’ mental state upon arrival has significantly lengthened their recovery time at the shelter and ability to find a home.
“Mentally, I would say a lot of them are borderline broken, to the point where like, they’re just zero trust,” said Cheung.
Cheung and other staff are heartbroken by the condition these waves of huskies are in.
He estimates the ideal turnaround time for adopting a surrendered dog to be between six to nine weeks. Still, when these waves of abandoned huskies come in it can take upwards of three to five months to rehabilitate them.
“Any dog that comes in under-socialized requires lots of time and commitment, and thankfully the team here has stepped up to the plate,” said branch manager of the Delta shelter, Ryan Voutilainen.
“It did take a lot of effort. Now what we really need to do is get these animals into homes.”
A call for responsible dog-ownership
Voutilainen and Richmond BC SPCA are working together to determine where these huskies are coming from, and in the meantime, he is urging people not to abandon their pets.
“Abandoning your pet is illegal, and can result in cruelty charges,” said Voutilainen. “So we want to make sure that people are being responsible, and also trying to find alternative arrangements for their pets, rather than doing that.”
Voutilainen says the public should educate themselves before choosing to adopt a pet.
“Doing the research to kind of get a really good understanding as to what the costs are associated with keeping a pet, and those time commitments, is really helpful to make sure that before you bring that pet home.”
Leoppky says despite the huskies’ poor condition when they first arrived, they’ve shown tremendous improvements with support from staff and volunteers.
“They’ve come leaps and bounds,” said Leoppky.
High maintenance pups
Huskies require a routine, mental stimulation and social bonding to live a happy life
Vancouver dog trainer and behaviourist Charlotte Hutchinson says huskies are “wonderful dogs, but for the right person.”
Hutchinson said huskies are affectionate, high-energy dogs that bond more closely to their family than other breeds.
“The ideal husky parent would probably be someone or a family that is super outdoorsy, has a yard, is happy to go on hikes, you know, three, four hours long,” said Hutchinson.
“If you’re not around all the time, that’s something that can be really hard for them. Especially huskies, they’re extremely emotional.”
Hutchinson said that it’s not just physical exercise that keeps huskies healthy.
“Huskies are super, super intelligent dogs,” said Hutchinson. “They need brain work. They need mental stimulation. They need nose work.”
Though abandonment is traumatizing for any pet and is included in the Criminal Code for this reason, Hutchinson says huskies are more susceptible to long-term repercussions than other breeds.
“It can really, really affect kind of how their life moves forward. They can suffer from PTSD. It can be really hard for them to bond with that second family, their new home,” said Hutchinson. “They won’t be able to settle. They’ll cry. It’s a struggle for them. They’re one of the harder dogs to kind of come back out of that abandonment.”
Though recovery is a challenge, Hutchinson said it’s worth it.
“They’re so beautiful, so amazing, extremely affectionate,” says Hutchinson. “They’re very, very positive and happy dogs to have around you if you’re the right family.”