Pet shelters pushed to their limits

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BY KELSEY JAMES

STAFF REPORTER

NORWOOD FLATS

Supplied photo

Manitoba Underdogs Rescue is one of many local pet rescues that have been forced to implement an “intake freeze” on account of soaring prices, increased surrenders and a lack of foster homes.

Pet shelters throughout Winnipeg are feeling the pressure as they implement intake freezes and plea for more donations and foster homes.

Manitoba Underdogs Rescue has been on a three-month intake freeze since May. On July 25, the organization posted on its Instagram that it hasn’t “seen anything like this before … the shelters are full and drowning in veterinary bills. Volunteers are burning out and fosters are few and far between.

“We are sure you see it — post after post for donation requests, fosters, adopters and so much more,” the message read. “We are living it every day. The calls keep coming — injured dogs, stray dogs, dogs that a family is no longer able to keep … and there is nowhere for them to go.”

Manitoba Underdogs has been forced to reduce its intake by 65 per cent as the organization attempts to gain control of its finances. At the time of its Instagram posting, the rescue’s veterinary bills for the year had totalled over $250,000. The organization has been forced to turn away sick puppies and injured and pregnant dogs, and they’re not the only pet rescue in Manitoba forced to make these difficult decisions.

“We’ve only been taking in extremely critical cases for the longest we’ve ever had to. All the rescues are experiencing this overwhelming feeling,” Manitoba Underdogs Rescue foster co-ordinator and Norwood Flats resident Meg Norton, 44, said. “Before, our longest intake freeze was maybe a couple of weeks. It’s shocking for all of us to have to be in this position for so long.”

Norton said the rescue’s current intake freeze has been impacted by a lack of foster homes, “pandemic puppies” being surrendered and its financial situation (donations have decreased significantly since the beginning of the year, she added).

“We’re calling it a ‘perfect storm’ because it’s a number of things coming together that have put us, and other rescue organizations, into this financial struggle,” Norton said.

“Over the pandemic, so many people adopted dogs when they were at home, not realizing life was going to go back to normal, and now we’re in situations that they didn’t put time and energy into training or setting their dog up to living post-pandemic life. People are still not back to normal with their jobs or are maybe laid off, so there’s been a real struggle with people not having that income they’d normally have to give to charity.”

Manitoba Underdogs Rescue is 100 per cent volunteer-run and foster home-driven. The organization primarily works in remote communities providing spay and neuter clinics to help control the dog overpopulation problem.

“When you didn’t know what community would be going into lockdown, it made it virtually impossible to organize clinics,” Norton said. “Those communities haven’t had access to spay and neuters like they normally had, which caused the dog population to get out of control and undo all the work we put in years prior to COVID.”

To make matters worse, the rescue’s vans were vandalized on the morning of Aug. 14 in St. Vital. The organization’s work was forced to be temporarily placed on hold, and dash-cam footage revealed a group of people smashing the driver’s side windows.

Volunteers were gearing up for a day of spaying and neutering appointments when they made the discovery.

“I give our volunteers kudos. They did seven hours on the highway driving 100 kilometres with busted windows,” Norton said. “They kept positive attitudes and got the job done, which is pretty amazing.”

To learn more about Manitoba Underdogs Rescue and how you can adopt, donate or foster, visit www.manitobaunderdogs.org

Kelsey James

Kelsey James
Community Journalist

Kelsey James is a reporter/photographer for the Free Press Community Review. She graduated from Red River College’s creative communications program in 2018 as a journalism major and holds a bachelor’s degree in rhetoric, writing and communications from the University of Winnipeg. A lifelong Winnipegger who grew up in southwest Winnipeg, Kelsey is thrilled to be covering the neighbourhoods she still calls “home.”

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