Central Alberta animal shelter overwhelmed by record-setting pet surrenders

A Central Alberta animal rescue is overwhelmed with a spike in surrendered pets. As Laura Krause reports, the situation at Saving Grace Animal Society is not a result of owners returning to the office for the first time in more than a year and a half.

An animal rescue in central Alberta is struggling to find forever homes for animals in need due to record-setting pet surrenders.

Saving Grace Animal Society in Alix, Alta. – about 50 kilometres east of Red Deer – says the situation is dire and exacerbated by low levels of adoptions and donations.

“Our shelter is just completely full and we seem to not be able to get ahead,” said Amanda McClughan, the co-executive director of Saving Grace Animal Society.

“This week we are sitting around 15 dogs that have been surrendered, and on the cats side, it’s anywhere from 20-30 cats a week if you’re including kittens.”

Compared to a year ago, Saving Grace brought in around two to five dogs and around five cats each week.

“And this is with us saying no,” said McClughan. “We are saying no to dogs, we are saying no to cats every single day because we don’t have the space.

“At the beginning of the pandemic, we would have 15 dogs, puppies, kittens go up for adoption each week and we would have around 100 people wanting to adopt these animals. And it just seemed everyone wanted a companion at that time.”


Four of the many animals currently up for adoption at the Saving Grace Animal Society in Alix, Alta. From left to right: Tony, James, Monty, Boots. (Credit: FACEBOOK/Saving Grace Animal Society)

The situation in Alix does not seem be a Canada-wide or even province-wide issue caused by pet owners surrendering their pandemic pets after returning to the office for the first time in more than a year and a half.

Tara Hellewell at Humane Canada believes there could be a multitude of factors at play.

“It could be economic factors, sometimes families break up, housing difficulties, the inability to bring a pet into a new home,” said Hellewell.

Added McClughan: “I think finances is definitely a big one. A lot of people just aren’t able to afford the bills when it comes to emergency medical situations. So we are seeing a lot of them end up at the vet and the emergency vet with conditions that can be easily treated, but maybe they are requiring surgery. And that is quite costly.”

The Edmonton Humane Society and Humane Canada both say they haven’t seen an unexpected spike with intake or surrenders.

“I think Canadians love their pets, they value them very much, they look at them like members of their family, and that continues through the pandemic,” said Hellewell. “I think as long as our SPCA and humane societies and rescues across the country can stay on top of offering great programs, information and education to pet owners across the country, we will be able to support them the right way.”

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