The Animal Care and Control Centre won’t be accepting surrenders of healthy dogs for the time being, the City of Edmonton said Tuesday.
There has been an “ongoing increase in animal drop-offs” at shelters and rescues across the province, the group said, and there is not enough space.
The centre will be temporarily pausing intake of healthy dogs until there is sufficient kennel space.
In the meantime, priority will be given to dogs that are injured or in significant distress, the centre said, “exhibiting symptoms such as bleeding, trouble breathing, obvious fractures, unconsciousness, inability to move and seizing.”
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Officials are asking members of the public to help as much as possible.
“Right now we are asking Edmontonians who find a dog to take the steps to reunite the pet with its owner and, if unable to do so, care for the animal until an appointment can be made,” said John Wilson, director of Animal Control and Park Rangers.
- Post the animal to the City of Edmonton’s Lost & Found Pet page;
- Look for a City of Edmonton tag and call 311 for the owner’s contact information;
- Bring the animal into a veterinary clinic to check for a microchip;
- Post a picture of the dog on Edmonton Lost Pets, Edmonton & Area Lost Pets, and Edmonton Lost & Found Pets and other community Facebook pages;
- Walk the animal around the neighbourhood and talk to residents;
- Use online platforms like Facebook and Kijiji to find the owner;
- Hold the dog until an appointment can be made. For questions or information on supports, resident can call 311 or visit the city’s Responsible Pet Ownership webpage.
Staff are also working with partners and private kennels to find additional space.
“We’re seeing a dramatic increase in the number of dogs coming into our care and into the care of the other rescue and shelter organizations in and around the city,” Wilson said.
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He said that in the 30-year history of the centre, staff have never seen this many dogs or animal stays be this long.
“Part of that reason is that some of the animals have behavioural issues, some of the animals have been neglected and so the care that they need is much higher than it has been typically in the past.
“Supporting those animals and getting them to a place where they can be adopted successfully into their forever home is a lengthy endeavour,” he said.
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Dog owner and mother of five, Sara Beggs, saw a little black dog running in traffic near her home in Mill Woods. She and her daughter enticed him with treats, got him off the road and starting looking for his owner.
“I posted on the Lost Pets Found page. I said: ‘Is anybody missing this dog? He’s a smiley guy, he’s great, very loveable. He likes to give kisses.’
“We posted there. We took him to a vet for a chip scan and everything else. Nothing. No identifiers,” Beggs said.
“We posted it everywhere and nobody claimed this sweet guy.”
She called 311 and was transferred to the Animal Care and Control Centre.
“I got a call back from the officer and he said: ‘We just don’t have the room right now,’ and, ‘if he’s not sick or injured, we can’t take him,’ and, ‘if he’s not aggressive, we can’t take him.’
“And I said: ‘Well, what am I supposed to do then?’ And the officer on the phone said: ‘Just let him go. Maybe he’ll find his way home.’
“I’m not going to let this dog go back into the middle of traffic! That’s not fair.
“And he said: ‘Well, you could home him for a few days until there’s room or a rescue can take him.’
“Well, rescues are full. I know, I volunteer for one. We’re full.”
Beggs said the sad reality and the ACC response left her quite distraught.
“I was really upset because I thought that’s what they were there for,” she said.
“I even called the humane society and asked them and they said the same thing. They’re full. They couldn’t take him. I didn’t know what to do.”
She and her family kept the friendly black dog for a couple of days but needed to find an alternative when Beggs’ larger dog started becoming aggressive towards him.
“I put a plea out on Mill Woods community page on Facebook. I said: ‘Is anyone able to house him until he can get into ACC or a rescue?’ And I had a lovely lady contact me and say: ‘Yes, I’ll take him.’
“She ended up adopting him, so it was great.”
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Beggs is relieved her story has a happy ending and the smiley little pup found a good home, but she worries about other animals.
“Coming from a rescue standpoint, I know how full everyone is. And I understand that ACC and the humane society are taking in evacuee pets as well… I know they’re stretched to the max but I think they either come up with a bigger space so they can help all these animals… or, if they want people to hold on to these animals and not let them out, then they should be helping with a little bit of the cost because it’s expensive.”
She also wants pet owners to be responsible and to be held accountable.
“I think they need to look at the people who are dropping animals on the side of highways, all the people that are just dumping them because they can’t handle them,” Beggs said.
“I don’t think it’s fair to the dogs that are in good shape that need homes or the animals that do get lost and just need to find their way home and they can’t because nobody wants to keep other people’s animals. It’s not fair to us.
“I’d like to tell people to stop dumping their pets. It’s not fair to the animal.”
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The Animal Care & Control Centre cares for 6,000-7,000 animals each year under the Five Freedoms of Animal Welfare model. ACCC’s goal is to return lost animals to their owners and work with partner agencies to help animals in care find forever homes.
Wilson explained that model means it’s not just about space; it’s about quality of care.
The five freedoms are “really about how we’re able to protect animals so they can express themselves freely. They’re free from hunger first, pain, distress.
“So when we talk about capacity for care, it’s not just about space; it’s about how many staff we have, how well those staff are trained, how many animals are in our care, the duration of their stay and unfortunately, what kind of health condition those animals are in when they come into our care.
“All those things impact the maximum number of animals we can care for at any given time.”
Wilson said a lot of factors are influencing the increase in surrendered or abandoned pets.
“Sometimes we’ll hear about people’s difficulties with pet-friendly, accessible housing, for example, or financial implications. We’ve seen so much inflation that the cost of animal care — supplies, food — has skyrocketed.
“And also the economic downturn. People are struggling. Financial factors are definitely a part of that equation. However, what we’re also seeing is when people have adopted or secured animals during the pandemic, some of them didn’t do their research, unfortunately. And so we have animals that have behavioural problems or health problems that they haven’t anticipated.”
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Animal groups are seeing more animals left — unclaimed — and staff cannot find the owner.
“We’re seeing more animals come in that have no identification. They don’t have a microchip, they don’t have a licence, they don’t have a tattoo, and that makes it incredibly difficult to try to trace ownership for that animal.
“We can’t trace the owners to reunite them and those animals end of staying in our care. And unfortunately, because of the capacity challenges across the entire system, they often stay in our care for lengthy periods of time. It can be up to four to six weeks before we’re able to successfully place those animals.”
Wilson would like to see more education, awareness and financial supports for potential pet owners.
“We appreciate that times are hard for many Edmontonians right now,” Wilson said. “But before surrendering your animal, we would encourage you to explore the resources and supports available to you.”
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Animal rescues and shelters across Alberta have been sounding the alarm about crisis level capacity issues for some time.
On Aug. 8, the Second Chance Animal Rescue Society (SCARS) said it was “150 per cent over capacity” and reaching the point where it would have to refuse intakes.
At that time, program co-ordinator Amanda Annetts said SCARS had more than 480 animals in its care, including many pregnant animals, litters and young animals.
The organization is urging people to spay and neuter their pets. It also issued a call for action: consider adopting or fostering.
“Fostering gets them out of our rescue centre and into homes, which is the best part,” Annetts said, adding there’s no cost to foster homes.
“We do everything for you. We pay for all vet bills, we set you up with our vets across Alberta who do assist with that. We take care of everything you need. You just need a loving home and extra TLC and love to give these animals.”
SCARS and other animal organizations always need donations, she added, whether that’s money or supplies.
“Dog food, wet food, puppy food and litter,” Annetts said.
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Wilson described this as a community challenge. He said staff with animal rescue groups and shelters are so passionate about what they do and citizens are stepping up too.
“We have people who are taking dogs in, keeping them overnight, they’re posting on Facebook pages, community pages that many communities have now, they’re posting there. They’re trying to find the owners themselves.”
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