Long hours and full kennels: animal rescues contend with cold dogs

As the extreme cold continues across the province, animal rescues are struggling to keep up with demand.

'We really don't want to turn anyone away at this point when the temperatures are so dramatic'

Animal rescue volunteers are braving the cold to keep animals out of it. (Second Chance Animal Rescue Society)

As the extreme cold continues across the province, animal rescues are struggling to keep up with demand.

"We're really full — like busting at the seams full," Terra MacLean, training coordinator with the Second Chance Animal Rescue Society, said Thursday.

SCARS has a network of foster homes and shelters in Athabasca and Busby, covering a wide swath of northern Alberta as far as Red Earth Creek.

"We have foster homes that don't normally foster this time of year that have stepped up to help out and intake at this time," she said.

SCARS and Saving Grace Animal Shelter also deliver straw to owners for their outdoor pets. Saving Grace executive director Erin Deems says duvets are unsuitable as dog sweat will turn the material to ice in cold conditions.

On Tuesday, a convoy of vehicles and volunteers drove two-and-a-half hours to Frog and Onion lakes to pick up 27 dogs and four cats. While all the animals were strays, some did not appreciate the rescue, MacLean said.

"Most of them are scared and timid," she said. "They don't know what's happening and you're outside on your hands and knees in -40 C trying to coax them to you or trying to corral them in a crate because they don't know that you're offering love and warmth."

Zoe's Animal Rescue in Edmonton and the Edmonton Humane Society took some of the pack but the rest went to SCARS, MacLean said.

She said her volunteers are working longer hours and some have even taken days off work to help out.

It's a similar situation 300 kilometres south at the Saving Grace Animal Society, which runs a shelter in Alix and a farm sanctuary in Stettler.

"Our whole team is definitely working overtime trying to get as many animals through our program as we can and finding placement with other rescues that we can," said executive director Erin Deems. 

"We really don't want to turn anyone away at this point when the temperatures are so dramatic."

The feed bill for Saving Grace Animal Society's farm sanctuary has doubled in the extreme cold. (Saving Grace Animal Society)

The society now has around 80 animals in care including foster homes, Deems said.

It is also offering a $100 discount on puppy adoptions, "in the hopes that maybe that'll entice people to come in and get these animals into homes so we can bring more out of the cold."

For In the Woods Animal Rescue, based south of Peace River, the situation is exacerbated by volunteers unable to help out because of long distances and weather conditions.

The work has fallen to staff like vice president Cheryl Bastien. The shelter took in 35 dogs in December, but have admitted almost as many in the first two weeks of January — many of which are puppies and pregnant females. 

"Of course in these types of temperatures, that would just be a death sentence for them."


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