Disturbing Cook County trend: Owners of dogs adopted during pandemic abandoning their pets

Two abandoned dogs have been turned in to PAWS Tinley Park, thanks to the hard work and follow-through of a Cook County Forest Preserve employee.

Shelter staff says the dogs' owner was arrested, but their abandonment is symptomatic of a disturbing trend.

"The word we want to get out is: a pet is a life-long responsibility," said Candy Staros, President of the PAWS Tinley Park Board.

Staros says the former owner of Pepper and her big Brother, Ember, didn't take that responsibility seriously, abandoning them in a Palos Park Forest Preserve, where fortunately a dutiful conservation officer was able to catch them and turn them in.

"For almost 12 days she worked very hard to find the second one, and after about 12 days, she was able to find the second one and brought that one in as well," said Staros.

But Ember and Pepper, who was very emaciated after 12 days outside, are just two victims of a disturbing Cook County trend: dog owners having a change of heart, not willing to do the legwork to find a shelter with space, and abandoning their pets in forest preserves.

"They've seen a horrendous increase in mostly dogs left in forest preserves," Staros said.


Shelter staff say it's happened dozens of times in recent weeks, and attribute it to people adopting pets early in the pandemic, then having a change of heart.

The woman who abandoned Pepper and Ember was arrested and is scheduled to appear in court at the end of December. The two dogs are right now looking for a forever home, and will be adopted out as a bonded pair.