How animal rescues are helping northern Sask. communities reduce stray populations
SASKATOON -- Two Alberta rescue organizations are giving 87 animals from northern Saskatchewan a new leash on life.
The Saving Grace Animal Society travelled to the Northern Village of La Loche with the Alberta Animal Rescue Crew Society (AARCS) in February. The village had reached out to Saving Grace in hopes of reducing its stray dog population.
Erin Deems, executive director of the Saving Grace Animal Society, said most of the rescues were dogs and five were cats. AARCS took about 20 of the animals into their care, with the rest going to Saving Grace in Alix, Alta.
Some of them have been put up for adoption already, but some will be in their care for a bit longer, including a puppy with a broken pelvis and dogs with varying degrees of frostbite and mange, a skin condition.
"We're very excited that they have another opportunity and a second chance, so I think that once they're all fully vetted and go through the programs that they'll be off to really successful and forever homes,” said Deems.
“I love to be able to take them in, show them the love, the luxury we can offer, get them spayed and neutered.”
She said they had to euthanize one elderly dog with several health problems.
"I think people in cities and what not don't realize that there is no access to veterinary care up there, you know, the closest vet is three plus hours away,” she added.
La Loche Mayor Georgina Jolibois said the village is in the process of setting up an animal control committee, and is working with volunteers in La Loche and Clearwater River Dene Nation to reduce free-roaming dogs.
“What we wanted to do was exercise different options aside from, if need be, destroying dogs,” she said.
In the summer of 2019, La Loche cancelled a dog cull after concerns that it wasn’t the right approach to deal with the growing dog population.
Jolibois said the village is open to working with rescue organizations more.
“We have invited them back if they can come again in the near future. If there are other initiatives such as Saving Grace, I do understand that we would work with them.”
La Loche isn’t the only northern community inviting in rescue organizations – Deems said they’re also working with other First Nations communities in northern Saskatchewan and Alberta.
Additionally, the Canine-Community Alliance is working with First Nation bands across the province to rescue dogs. In mid-March, they’ll be in Fond du Lac, which is only accessible by plane or ice road in the winter.
The non-profit organization was co-founded by Christina Pfeil.
“These dogs, their lives are changed forever. They go from living on the streets, fighting disease, infection, mass breeding, all of that kind of stuff, to being able to just relax and being in a home environment where they get to be spoiled,” she said.
Pfeil said it also takes stress off of people who can no longer care for their pets.
“I don’t think a lot of people are paying attention to the stem of the problem, solving it from the root of the source rather than just removing the dogs repeatedly because they’re just going to keep breeding if we don’t do something more,” she said.
Like Deems, Pfiel said the goal of Canine-Community Alliance is to ensure dogs are spayed or neutered.