The COVID-19 pandemic brought about an unexpected surge in pet acquisitions, a trend that seemingly coincides with a marked rise in dog-related confrontation in urban centers, according to local animal experts. Edmonton, a city in Canada’s Alberta province, witnessed a pronounced 18 percent spike in dog attack complaints from January to July, as against the previous year’s count of 507 complaints during the same period.
John Wilson, Chief of the city’s Animal Care and Control Centre, suggests this uptick could largely be associated with what he terms a worldwide ordeal of “pandemic pets.” The phenomenon is characterized by a surge in the number of animals surrendered to shelters and an increase in stray pets due to novice owners unable to provide necessary care and training. As Wilson explains, “It’s not entirely unexpected considering the scenario we’re in.”
Nurtured Canine’s Melissa Lulashnyk, a renowned dog trainer, asserts that inadequate training time invested by these new pet owners might be a contributing factor to the surge in attacks. She binds the importance of pet obedience with an expression of concern regarding pet owners’ rush to dog parks without the necessary “recall command” training. She believes these circumstances cause dogs to tire excessively and resort to confrontational behavior, thereby spiraling the situation out of control.
In an instance of direct consequence, a provincial court judge imposed a maximum lawsuit of $10,000 on a dog owner due to his pet’s repeated attacks. The charges were pressed against the owner in compliance with Edmonton’s animal licensing and control bylaw.
Proposing a revamp of the aforementioned bylaw—which hasn’t been updated in over 20 years—John Wilson highlights the need to accommodate societal shifts regarding pet ownership and animal companionship. He envisions pets accompanying owners to a wider range of public spaces in a reflection of this growing trend.
Echoing Wilson’s observation, Melissa Lulashnyk adds that pets, especially dogs, have significantly evolved in behavior and temperament over the years. She notes the emergence of behaviors that were nonexistent a decade ago, emphasizing the constant evolutionary progress of these animals.