Martine Huijssoon, owner of Old MacDonald Kennels near Ponoka, and her foster fail, Mona. (Photo submitted)

Martine Huijssoon, owner of Old MacDonald Kennels near Ponoka, and her foster fail, Mona. (Photo submitted)

Alberta animal shelters running out of room and funds

“Saving one dog will not change the world. But surely, for that one dog, the world has changed.”

This is a quote on the Saving Grace Animal Society website. But that task is getting harder and harder for Alberta rescue organizations.

“We are having a really, really hard time right now,” said Erin Deems, co-executive director for Saving Grace. Donations, adoptions and available foster homes have all slowed down, but the intakes are increasing.

Deems said people adopted animals during the pandemic and are deciding they don’t have time for those animals now that things are getting back to normal.

“We are seeing an increase in returns,” Deems explained. “Dogs that were adopted as puppies are now coming back as one or two-year-olds.”

Deems said people have claimed they are too busy now or they didn’t do enough training during the pandemic and it’s becoming an issue now that people can be out and about and visiting each other and behaviour issues are arising.

“I think people have to take responsibility for their animals,” she said. “We are definitely seeing an increase in cats right now. Our cat populations are crazy.”

Part of being a responsible owner is spaying or neutering your pet, Deems added.

Finding available foster homes for these animals in need is also a struggle. Many shelters rely solely on foster homes and, unlike Saving Grace, don’t have a brick-and-mortar building to house rescued animals.

“A lot of our fosters are busy during the summer, so we struggle to find people anytime we take an animal in,” said Deems.

Foster homes for special cases are also needed, such as foster homes with no other animals, foster homes willing to provide medical care or foster homes for pregnant dogs or cats or ones coming in with babies already born.

“This has been our hardest year yet, hands down,” Deems said.

Saving Grace’s recent Facebook post for dogs available for adoption states, “We continue to sadly have multiple requests for animal surrenders daily that we just can’t take in. And every rescue is in the same boat. We are just trying to keep our heads above water at this point.”

“We can’t help anybody if it keeps going this way,” said Melanie Crehan, with Sylvan Lake & Area Serenity Pet Shelter Society. “I think we’re seeing an enormous shift in thinking. Just from my observation, family pets are not as highly valued as they used to be. Abuse and neglect have increased.”

Crehan said she’s afraid this downward spiral will continue.

“People are not able to donate what they used to or want to. There’s not a lot of money left with rising gas prices and the rising costs of everything else.”

A few days ago, Old MacDonald Kennels and Animal Services, from Ponoka, posted several shepherd cross puppies available for adoption. “Our shelter is so full,” the post stated, “we lowered their fees so hopefully someone will be able to give them the home they truly deserve.”

“Adoptions are extremely slow and the intake requests are non-stop,” said Martine Huijssoon, owner at Old MacDonald.

Old MacDonald was recently contacted by someone that had adopted a dog from them two years ago, asking the shelter to take the dog back.

“We always take our adoptees back,” said Huijssoon. “But we’re so full, we had to ask them to wait.”

Instead, the owners left the dog tied up on their acreage and they moved away without him.

“We took him back right away, after we found out they had left him,” she said. “They did come back daily to feed him. It’s not always that people are bad. The economy is bad and people often can’t keep their pets when they move into rentals.”

“We are sending out an SOS to anyone and everyone who is looking to add a new member to their family,” states Saving Grace’s Facebook page. “Animals are suffering and adoptions have slowed.”