While it may seem like a good idea to surprise the family at Christmas with a long-desired puppy or kitten, it’s a surprise the Animal Haven Rescue League would rather see not happen.
“I think, if it’s a family decision, made with full knowledge of the costs and responsibilities, getting a pet at Christmas is OK,” league president Boni Benner said. “As a surprise, it’s definitely a bad idea. You don’t know the recipient’s financial situation, if they can afford to care for the pet, if they have time, or even if they want it.”
Since oil prices plummeted earlier this year, the energy industry in Alberta has felt the pinch. Layoffs, reduced hours and lower wages have meant families all across the province have had to cut back. In some cases, that means moving to lower-cost rentals. These rental units frequently don’t allow pets.
“We’ve definitely seen an increase in the number of surrenders,” Benner said. “Both dogs and cats.”
The league is currently fostering nearly 20 cats and just fewer than 10 dogs, including five adorable puppies. Costs for food and veterinary care alone costs the league several thousand per month, money that’s brought in through donations — which have fallen in number and amount since oil prices impacted the province.
It’s a double-whammy for the rescue, which has the number of pets in foster care going up while donations are going down.
“We’d have more animals if we had more foster homes,” Benner noted. “We get calls every day.”
There also has been a “kitten boom,” which is a bit unusual at this time of year since kittens tend to be born in the warmer months of the year. Benner said the increase in kittens and puppies is another sign of the recession — well-meaning, normally responsible pet owners may not be able to afford the cost of spaying or neutering. There’s currently no spay/neuter program in the Stettler area that offers discounts or free procedures — though a delegation has appeared before both town and county councils this year looking for support for such programs or trap-neuter-release programs for ferals.
Animal Haven is currently running a fundraising campaign to help cover the cost of the increase in surrendered items, courtesy of a mother dog named Scout and her four puppies.
The rescue partnered with a remote First Nations community that has no easy access to veterinary care, taking in the pregnant Scout. Once the puppies are weaned, they’ll be adopted out in the community, with Scout being spayed and returned to her owners.
Anyone making a donation to Animal Haven will have a chance at naming the puppies, with a draw being held to choose who gets the honours. Whether or not the puppies’ new owners keep the name is up to them, but until they’re adopted, that name will be the puppy’s name. There are three boys and one girl needing to be named yet.
For more information, visit www.animalhavenrescue.ca.