Edmonton

'Do best by your pet': Alberta SPCA sets single-day complaint record due to extreme cold

The Alberta SPCA opened 31 investigations on Monday, the largest single-day complaint total anyone at the agency can remember.

Owners urged to ensure their animals have heated, insulated shelter from the cold

The Alberta SPCA is reminding pet owners about their responsibilities to protect animals from the extreme cold. (Mark Lennihan/The Associated Press)

The Alberta SPCA opened 31 investigations on Monday, the largest single-day complaint total anyone at the agency can remember.

"It's another frigid morning and our peace officers will have another very busy day," the SPCA said Tuesday on its Facebook page. 

Most complaints were related to the cold and animals without shelter, the agency said.

The Animal Protection Act requires owners to protect their pets from injurious heat or cold.

"What's required is different depending on the species and breed but shelter must be provided to give the animals a break from the weather," the SPCA said.

As of Tuesday afternoon, extreme cold warnings were in place for the entire province, with windchill temperatures hovering around –40 C. The frigid temperatures are expected to persist through the week. 

'Just not built for this'

Animal rescue agencies and shelters across the province have been inundated since the cold snap began, said Erin Deems, executive director of Saving Grace Animal Society.

The rescue organization, based in Alix, Alta., normally fields two calls a day about pets being left out in the cold. This week, it is receiving 15 or more. 

Her volunteers will be headed out every day until the stretch of frigid temperatures begins to break, she said. 

"The temperatures have just been so dramatic," Deems said. "We've seen a huge increase in calls." 

On Monday alone, their volunteers rescued 18 dogs. Seven of those died of exposure, Deems said.  

"It turned into a large rescue day," she said. "Puppies are just not set up to survive these kinds of inclement temperatures." 

It's been a difficult and emotionally taxing week, Deems said.

Pet owners should be providing their animals with adequate shelter, she said. If animals can't be brought indoors, they should be kept in an enclosure that is heated and well-insulated.

"So many people think that a blanket in a dog house is going to be sufficient," she said. "but when the dog starts panting and creating moisture, that blanket just freezes.

"There are dogs out there that can survive these temperatures but it's such a small percentage," she added. "Most breeds are just not built for this.

"Do best by your pet. Really think about your animals and what you can offer them." 

Anyone who sees an animal in distress is asked to call the SPCA Animal Protection Line at 1-800-455-9003.