High River animal shelter rescued hundreds of pets

While High River residents were rescued within the first few days after the floodwaters hit the southern Alberta town, rescue efforts continue for missing pets.

Frantic people left pets behind not knowing how long they would be gone

High River's Heaven Can Wait animal rescue took in 'crates and crates' of cats during the southern Alberta flooding. (Angela Piovesana/CBC)

High River, Alta., residents Angela Piovesana and Amanda Pawlitzki have been blogging their experiences and the experience of friends, family members and neighbours during and after the floods hit southern Alberta.

While High River residents were rescued within the first few days after the floodwaters hit the southern Alberta town, rescue efforts continue for missing pets. 

Stressful situations, like the flooding in southern Alberta, can make cats act like they're feral, making them much harder to capture. (Angela Piovesana/CBC)

Kim Hessel, owner and operator of the animal shelter Heaven Can Wait, told me when I came out to visit her that they had just reunited a woman with her cat they feared dead. 

Richard Murray, who has been working alongside Hessel during the recovery, spotted the cat and was able to capture it. The pet's reunion with its owner brought tears to everyone’s eyes that morning.   

Hessel, Murray and Missy Monroe have been setting up traps and feeding stations and check on them nightly. 

Hessel explains that in stressful situations like a flood cats tend to become almost feral, making them even more difficult to capture and return to their owners.

Animals of all kinds were rescued by the many volunteers that arrived as soon as they could to help with this huge effort. Because there was little to no warning, many people had to leave their pets behind hoping that they would be safe in their homes until the floodwaters receded. No one knew that it would be so long before being able to return home to them and people were frantic.

Someone from Lethbridge, Alta., donated a semi-trailer to house many of the cats at the shelter. (Angela Piovesana/CBC)

Heaven Can Wait took in almost 700 animals. They were expecting dogs and cats but were surprised to find the array of animals that were coming in. There were birds of all kinds, guinea pigs, hamsters, bearded dragons, lizards, rabbits, chickens and even snakes. 

Volunteers pulled together to find crates, supply food and set up tents. A semi-trailer was donated from Lethbridge to help house the crates and crates of cats.   

The snakes were brought to the shelter in pillow cases. Hessel put a call out on Facebook when the snakes started to arrive as she has no experience in caring for them and over 100 people responded. 

Luckily, one of the respondents lived very close by and offered to take them in. Hessel takes very little credit for the rescue efforts as there were so many people and organizations involved, but the efforts continue and she still needs volunteers as intake is ongoing and Heaven Can Wait is still houses many new residents.  

Heaven Can Wait will open a new adoption centre in High River at 1- 938 Centre Street south on Sept. 27. The cats available for adoption will be moving to the adoption centre and hopefully from there onto their forever homes.

Heaven Can Wait workers label a crate with the address the pet inside was found at. (Angela Piovesana/CBC)

About the Author

Angela Piovesana

Angela Piovesana has been a resident of High River, Alta. for 18 years. Piovesana owns and operates Red Bag, a clothing store in downtown High River, with her son. Piovesana says creativity and inspiration are key to her life and her business.


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