Calgary

Dog rescue centre 'overwhelmed' with demand says new building could ease pressure

The driving force behind an animal rescue organization near Canmore, Alta., says she’s overwhelmed and needs more funding as she works to rescue and rehome growing numbers of abandoned dogs from across the province.

Rocky Mountain Animal Rescue says it needs help to stay afloat

Rory O’Neill, of Rocky Mountain Animal Rescue, with one of several dogs she’s rescued from Mexico. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

The driving force behind an animal rescue organization near Canmore, Alta., says she's overwhelmed and needs more funding as she works to rescue and rehome growing numbers of abandoned dogs from across the province.

Most of the dogs and puppies that Rocky Mountain Animal Rescue helps come from Alberta reserves, including the nearby Stoney Nakoda First Nation.

But the centre, near Canmore, also takes in some dogs from as far afield as Mexico and California before they're rehomed in Calgary and beyond. 

Rocky Mountain Animal Rescue says it's overwhelmed with demand. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

"It's hard to stay afloat," said Rory O'Neill, who runs the centre. "We need funding to help with a lot of vet bills, for food, for gas."

The centre isn't a typical shelter. Instead it works with volunteers willing to act as foster homes for dogs while the animals receive behavioural training and wait to be connected with permanent owners, which takes a lot of organizing and a lot of money.

O'Neill says she deals with around 400 dogs annually, and that number gets bigger every year.

"I work sometimes from five in the morning till 9 at night, doing physical rescues, transport, vetting training, housebreaking. People don't realize how much goes into taking a homeless dog and turning it into a pet," she said.

"You never know how many will be rescued at once, especially when we go far north and there's many at a First Nations community that need help," said O'Neill.

Rocky Mountain Animal Rescue deals with 400 dogs each year. (Rory O’Neill)

O'Neill plans to raise enough money to hire an assistant to help her organize her army of volunteer foster homes and run rescue missions, with the much bigger goal of funding a new building, making it easier for adopters to connect with potential pets.

"We really need to get a building built in either Cochrane or Calgary, a real building, a real facility instead of the foster program," she said. "It would make a huge difference and we could save far more animals."

"Rory's the lady out on the highways, out on reserves, in garbage dumps, rescuing dogs from abandoned cars," said long-time volunteer Nick Jensen, who has fostered dogs for more than 10 years.

"Unfortunately, as with everything, money talks and that's what it requires to get a bigger facility," he said. "Instead of working out of people's homes."

O'Neill says she's turning to social media in an initial fundraising effort, including creating a GoFundMe page to help rally donations.

About the Author

Dan McGarvey

Journalist

Dan McGarvey is a mobile journalist focused on filing stories remotely for CBC Calgary’s web, radio, TV and social media platforms, only using an iPhone and mobile tech. You can email story ideas and tips to Dan at: dan.mcgarvey@cbc.ca or tweet him @DanMcGarvey