Calgary animal shelters, overrun and in need, issue adoption appeals

Caring for 247 animals, the Calgary Humane Society has reached capacity, leaving another 370 waitlisted

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Animal shelters are looking for more foster families as adoptions decline and the cost of pet ownership increases.

The Calgary Humane Society currently has 46 animals in foster homes, waiting to find forever homes. The Alberta Animal Rescue Crew Society is also urging people to foster, as they’re expecting a large influx of calls due to cold weather.

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“We can see a larger than normal number of puppies in the community, being bred without interested owners in mind,” said Anna-Lee Fitzsimmons, director of public relations at Calgary Humane Society.

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Fitzsimmons says that having too many puppies has meant more of them are spending their adolescence in shelters or foster homes.

“The demand for companion animals has slowed, but the supply has not slowed in tandem,” said Fitzsimmons. “We do operate at a capacity-for-care model, which means that we don’t bring in more animals than we have the means to care for.”

Animals for adoption at the Calgary Humane Society
Scottish Terrier Zoey looks out from her kennel at the Calgary Humane Society on Monday. Brent Calver/Postmedia

Most of the shelter’s wait-listed animals — 305 — are dogs, and animals are brought in based on the urgency or emergency status of the animal or the owner.

“Five, six years ago we would see maybe 30 to 40 people turn to surrender, because they can’t source a pet-friendly rental,” said Fitzsimmons. “Last year, we saw close to 200 animals need to be surrendered because they could not find pet-friendly housing in the city of Calgary.”

According to Fitzsimmons, if renters have a behavioural pet that’s causing friction with a landlord or neighbour, the Calgary Humane Society offers free animal behaviour consultations.

Programs offered to help owners care for pets

Part of the core mission at the Calgary Humane Society is to support animal owners, so they don’t have to surrender their pets. It offers an animal food bank program, as well as emergency boarding for pets if people are displaced due to fires or floods, or individuals are hospitalized.

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“We also run pet safekeeping, which is for individuals fleeing domestic violence, and we care for their animal temporarily,” said Fitzsimmons.

At the end of 2023 the shelter started the Continued Companionship program, which helps seniors have the means and resources to pay vet bills for their pets.

Animals for adoption at the Calgary Humane Society
Jerry looks out from his kennel at the Calgary Humane Society. Brent Calver/Postmedia

AARCS is facing similar challenges, caring for more than 600 animals between its two locations and various foster homes, most of which are in Calgary.

“For the last year or two, we’ve been running at pretty much full capacity,” said Rachel Cote, director of programs at AARCS.

Cote cited high costs for veterinary care, high cost of life in general and rental costs as some of the reasons people surrender their animals.

“I think it’s in tandem with the high cost of living. These clinics, they also have to pay their staff, and they have to buy supplies and all these sorts of things, so they’re sort of at the mercy of inflation as well.

“It’s hard for people right now, so we want to be able to support them through those really hard times and keep their family together, because those pets are so important to them,” said Cote.

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AARCS also has a pet food bank, which gives hundreds of thousands of pounds of pet food to families that can’t afford it. They also provide spay and neuter assistance.

‘They get to be loved’: Foster homes important

Cote says there are enrichment and play group activities for dogs at the shelter, but a foster home is always better. “They get that family environment, they get to learn how to be a dog and be loved,” she said. “That is always going to be the gold standard for us.”

Foster homes are an important part of the equation because they offer a better experience for the animal and free up shelter space. It also helps them to learn more about individual dogs and provides would-be adopters with the best insight possible.

The group doesn’t accept walk-ins for anyone looking to adopt, but a full list of available dogs can be found on the Alberta Animal Rescue Crew Society website.

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