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Calgary animal shelters facing a capacity crunch

Calgary animal shelters are at capacity and are turning to city pet owners – or potential ones – to help.

A series of large seizures by the Calgary Humane Society and a distemper outbreak at one of the local animal rescues have put local organizations in a bind.

That’s led to a potential capacity problem for the City of Calgary’s Animal Services shelter.

Tara Lowes, Superintendent Animal Shelter Services with the City of Calgary, said they still have some space in their shelter, but they typically only take strays. They have an arrangement with the Alberta Animal Rescue Crew Society (AARCS), but that’s where the distemper outbreak is, and that group is also at capacity for cats.

If those agencies can’t take strays or surrenders, Animal Services’ capacity to take on new animals drops.

“We want to have space to be able to assist our fellow agencies,” said Lowes.

“Then, the current state that we’re in right now, with the weather, the state of emergency, if any citizens have to be evacuated, we need to have a safe space.”

Right now, Lowes said they can hold 98 cats and 106 dogs at their facility. Right now, they have 66 cats and 34 dogs.  The number of stray dogs they’ve brought in this year is up 42 per cent, and cats are up 25 per cent.

“Our priority is to get them into a home environment,” Lowes said.

Steps to curb pet problems

This combination of factors has led to the City asking current pet owners to help ease the current situation.

They want owners to licence their pets. This ensures a quick reunion if a pet is lost. Maybe consider a microchip or tattoo for added help.

Avoid surrendering, if possible. There are supports available to help families. They encourage pet owners to ask family or friends to help.  If there are behavioural issues, they want you to seek help through online resources or a local trainer.

They ask that you don’t drop off healthy stray animals.

Of course, if you can, adopt a pet from one of the many local animal agencies.

Surrenders have been an issue with people returning to work and school after the pandemic.

Last month, Nicole Janke, fundraising and resource development at AARCS said people are finding themselves in different circumstances.

“We are seeing some surrenders come into the shelter, unfortunately, due to various circumstances for people. People always mean their best,” she said at the time.

“Definitely we’re seeing some changes in their routines and ability to care for an animal due to financial circumstances or moving and that kind of thing.”

Lowes is seeing the same sort of thing, only from the stray side.

Since they only take strays, they’re seeing an increase in the number of owners bringing in their pets as found animals.

“Sometimes we find out that it was actually the person who says they found the animal is actually the owner of the animal,” she said.

“So that’s where it switches to them being truly a surrendered animal.”

The city encourages owners to look for their pets if lost or post to one of the several social media groups that help find lost pets.

Meanwhile, the City’s cat trap program has been suspended. They will soon reinstate their dog adoptions by appointment only.  More information will be made available at Calgary.ca/pets.