Animal shelters hope central Albertans will continue to open their hearts to homeless pets in 2021.
Tara Hellewell, executive director with Central Alberta Humane Society, said adoptions slowed down in December after a busy year.
“There is quite a bit of uncertainty out there. Everybody wasn’t expecting the pandemic to go on this long. Folks are concerned about what’s going to come, so we’ll see how that affects us,” Hellewell said.
“When COVID first hit, everything left the building. We’ve had very limited intake of dogs during COVID so it’s clear that people have really relied on man’s best friend throughout this pandemic.”
She said cat adoptions were also consistent, and thankfully few animals were returned after quick, impulse adoptions.
Saving Grace Animal Society, in Alix, also saw a jump in the demand for adoptions.
“We’ve actually had an increase in adoption requests. We don’t really expect things to slow down at all,” said Amanda McClughan, development director at Saving Grace.
“With a lot of things being closed and people being at home, a lot of people felt they had the time to spend to train a dog and integrate it into the family without having to be away so much.”
But Saving Grace has seen a big increase in major medical cases.
She said one day this month they had three calls — a cat with porcupine quills, another cat and a dog needing amputations, and a goat that could not be saved and needed to be euthanized.
“People can’t afford those extra funds to spend on (medical emergencies).”
Saving Grace wants to build a veterinary clinic for easier access to treatment and to reduce medical costs.
A $15,000 donation from an Alberta family in November will be put towards the clinic. It was made on behalf of their son Christopher Atkin who died this year.
“Their son was an animal lover and our page was one that they followed. We didn’t even know they were coming that day. They just showed up and passed us an envelope.”
The family also made an unexpected connection with an older dog while visiting the shelter.
“His name was Highway. He was a little spaniel. They fell in love with him and ended up adopting him,” McClughan said.
Central Alberta Humane Society is still celebrating how an abandoned, partially paralyzed dog found a forever home a year ago and showed everyone the meaning of resilience.
In December 2019, the dog was brought in by a Sylvan Lake bylaw officer after someone found her among mattresses and debris outside an apartment building.
The dog, named Angel by society staff, was extremely thin and malnourished, with a birth defect that left her with a twisted spine, and her back legs and hind end paralyzed.
Hellewell said Angel has bounced back since her adoption by an Edmonton-area family who had a dog with similar disabilities.
“She just looks like a completely different dog. It’s so incredible. She’s so much fatter. Now she looks like a normal dog.
“It’s been pretty cool to see how one animal, that I think probably a lot of folks would have thought wouldn’t stand a chance, has just thrived in a new environment.”
In the spring, the society completed its new X-ray and diagnostic room which eliminates the stress on animals caused during transportation, and cuts down on medical costs.
“We received a donation from Central Alberta Medical Imaging Services to purchase an X-ray for $58,000. Lowe’s helped us with some of the room renovations. Alpine Drywall helped us with the lead lining of the room.”
Recently $6,000 was raised for air filtration units to fight off respiratory illness among cats in care. The units will be installed once they arrive from the United States.
Like other non-profits, the society had to postpone its usual fundraising activities in 2020, including its huge, annual garage sale.
Hellewell said corporation donations have also dropped off.
“(COVID) government subsidies continue into the summer which is great. It gives us a little bit of hope that we’re going to be able to make it through. Our biggest worry is what happens after all the dust has settled.”