Animal shelters almost full – Winnipeg Free Press



Animal shelters across the city are facing what Winnipeg Humane Society CEO Jessica Miller calls a “perfect storm.”

Shelters such as the humane society are operating at almost full capacity due to northern wildfires, summer weather, and the pandemic.

Fur babies left behind

The residents of some Manitoba First Nations have been evacuated due to recent wildfires. But what happens to the four-legged friends left behind?

The residents of some Manitoba First Nations have been evacuated due to recent wildfires. But what happens to the four-legged friends left behind?

Little Grand Rapids and Pauingassi members boarded planes to Brandon and Winnipeg. “When they asked what was going to happen to their pets, they were told they’ll have to fend for themselves,” said Melanie Chudyk, clinic co-ordinator at Manitoba Animal Alliance.

Chudyk is one of the volunteers with the alliance who works with the RCMP to go back and forth to the threatened communities to try to feed, treat and / or rescue as many dogs as possible.

She said the group has had to make some difficult decisions because the planes and helicopters are unable to safely hold many of those left behind. “We’ve had to select those that were the worst off.”

Only the young, old, injured and nursing dogs are being evacuated from the impacted areas, Chudyk said. The group is in “crisis mode,” not only because of the severity of the problem, but also because of the limits set due to smoky conditions, she added.

The smoke has become so strong, planes holding supplies and volunteers can’t always take off and land in communities only accessible by air.

“We don’t know what kind of damage to the infrastructure these fires will to do these communities,” Chudyk said.

Blazes are closer to some communities than others, but “winds change, conditions change, and fires are very unpredictable.”

In Winnipeg, the alliance is “in desperate need” of foster spaces to take in the animals and offer care while they’re in the city, for as long as they need.

“Houses can be built, possessions can be repurchased again, but you can’t replace the loss of your ‘fur baby,’” Chudyk said.

– Gillian Brown

The warmer weather brings around “kitten season,” in which litters are dropped off; summer months typically result in fewer adoptions because people are on vacation.

But the most pressing problem is the surge of dogs and cats being flown in from northern communities evacuated due to wildfires.

A week ago, the shelter took in 33 pets who were left behind after the evacuations. The society had 500 animals, which is closing in on its capacity of 520.

“To take in 33 suddenly does put us in a pickle,” she said, “but we do believe that no animal should be left behind.”

The shelter operates using a “capacity for care” model, meaning that, when necessary, the shelter will find the right amount of space for every animal to still succeed and thrive until they get adopted.

For Miller, even though the shelter is nearing its full capacity, it hasn’t been a matter of whether or not animals will be turned away. Rather, the shelter is struggling with how long it can keep the animals. It depends on its foster network to take in animals once they are no longer sick or injured, because no matter what, “we will never turn away a sick or injured animal,” she said.

Some people have been hurt economically by the pandemic. Those with pets may be unable to pay for food and veterinary care.

Though the society has a food bank and an urgent care medical service that covers costs for extraordinary cases, the shelter, like most others in the city, depends on donations. However, since the onset of the pandemic, donations have dropped.

At D’Arcy’s ARC, manager Tanya Tranq said resources are scarce at the best of times, and the pandemic has made it more difficult.

“Animal shelters in general, they needed support prior to and they need support now especially,” she said.

“I don’t think there’s any area of ​​life that hasn’t been touched by the pandemic, and that includes animal shelters as well. It’s something where public support is always needed and essential to keep on doing what you do.”

Like the Humane Society, D’arcy’s ARC is receiving more calls now than in the past.

Normally, the shelter works strictly with strays, but due to the pandemic, it has taken some surrendered animals as well, which Tranq also attributes to the pandemic.

Miller, right, says the shelter will find the right space for every animal to thrive. Sarah Harrison, a humane society adoption counselor, holds Michael, a four-month-old rabbit.

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ALEX LUPUL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Miller, right, says the shelter will find the right space for every animal to thrive. Sarah Harrison, a humane society adoption counselor, holds Michael, a four-month-old rabbit.

The job is more than taking in and rehabilitating the animals. For the shelter, it also includes educating pet owners and ensuring that when a pet gets adopted, it doesn’t come back.

“This animal isn’t for now, it’s for a lifetime,” she said.

Just like other shelters, the Winnipeg Pet Rescue Shelter has had a steep decline in donations, but there’s been a silver lining.

Since the lockdowns began, the shelter has adopted out more older cats and dogs than in the past.

Founder and director Carla Martinelli-Irvine says people have the desire for companionship amid the isolation of the pandemic.

“There’s been so much loneliness during this COVID, and I think that cats have taken away a lot of the loneliness for people.”

However, “the cages are filling as fast as they’re going out,” she said.

The shelter is consistently full and has a wait-list for non-emergent cases, but “if we feel that an animal is being injured or it’s being neglected, then we find room.”

Martinelli-Irvine said the shelter focuses on animals who have nowhere to go, and they stay until they find their forever home.

“Once they hit the shelter, no bad happens to them anymore.”

“They don’t get beaten, they don’t get burned, they’re not unwanted anymore.”

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