Dog adoption rates in Israel were at an all-time low in 2021, with the number of people adopting dogs from shelters decreasing by 38% compared to 2020, according to new statistics published by the Let the Animals Live foundation, Maariv reported.
According to the statistics, 1,078 dogs were adopted from the foundation's shelters in 2020, as COVID-19 broke out and brought with it lockdowns. To compare, this year only 667 dogs were adopted.
Not only was there a decrease in adoption, but 308 dogs were abandoned by their owners who rethought the adoption and returned them to the shelters.
Dogs are known as "man's best friend," and studies show that dogs strengthen their owners, both by the release of Oxytocin when stroking the dog and by strengthening the owner's immune system.
At the height of COVID, people were shut up at home, and more and more of them began to adopt pets, especially dogs. This year, however, people began to return to normal, making it hard for them to hold pets.
"The happiness of many dogs being adopted during COVID have turned into days of sadness and frustration for the people who abandoned them and returned them to the cage with no injustice on their parts," the director-general of Let the Animals Live told Maariv.
"There is nothing harder than seeing a dog return from a home to the cage. Nothing hurts the dog's feelings more. That moment when the dog is left in the cage, he looks at you with sad eyes like he understands. But he doesn't really understand what he did to deserve abandonment.
"We are calling to people to come and adopt a friend."
But Let the Animals Live is not the only organization backing up the statistics.
The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Israel (SPCA) also backed up these claims, reporting "lots of abandonment and almost no adoptions" in 2021.
This is despite the previous year seeing a massive spike in dog adoption rates.
"With the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, there was a tremendous onslaught of people on shelters all over the country and even large dogs found their way out of shelters to new homes," SPCA spokesperson Gadi Vitner explained.
2020, Vitner explained, was "the glorious year of the dogs" due to the high adoption rates with a 300% increase in applications for adoption.
However, 2021 started with a lot of disappointment, Vitner said.
"Despite the responsible adoption processes we run, many dogs have returned to the shelter," Vitner said. "We take solace in the fact that they have returned to us and have not been abandoned in terrible places. The year 2021 is a very difficult year in terms of adoptions and also difficult in terms of dog abandonment."
The SPCA is now struggling to take in dogs from the periphery, where dog abandonment and suffering are at their highest. In these regions, especially in the South, high numbers of abandoned and stray dogs live in dangerous and unhealthy conditions. For example, near Arad, hundreds of dogs live in horrific and dangerous conditions in a landfill.
"This has caused great suffering to thousands of abandoned dogs who can undergo rehabilitation but have no shelter to take them due to lack of space," Vitner said.
"Dogs are our best friends, that's how we were raised and we really do not understand how such loving creatures are cruelly abandoned for no injustice on their part. We hope that 2022 will be a more successful year in which we will promote welfare for abandoned animals."