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'Perfect storm' has Calgary Humane Society desperate for adoptions this month

The goal of the Calgary Humane Society's Home for the Holidays campaign is to attract 200 adopters and 150 foster homes over the month of December. (Radja Mahamba/CBC - image credit)
The goal of the Calgary Humane Society's Home for the Holidays campaign is to attract 200 adopters and 150 foster homes over the month of December. (Radja Mahamba/CBC - image credit)

To say this past year has been a challenging one for the Calgary Humane Society would be an understatement.

"This has probably been the most difficult year of my career here at CHS, and that's 17 years," said Carrie Fritz, the society's executive director, at the launch of the CHS's Home for the Holidays campaign on Saturday.

She says there are many factors behind these challenges, starting with the COVID-19 pandemic.

"During the pandemic, when everyone wanted a companion animal, we saw the backyard breeders popping up. They wanted to fill that demand. And that is still happening, even though that demand doesn't exist anymore," said Fritz.

"We are seeing litter after litter of animals coming into this shelter."

In 2019, Fritz said they rarely saw a puppy come through the shelter's door. And when there was one, people were lining up to adopt it.

"Those lineups are gone," she said.

According to Fritz, there has been a 148 per cent increase in puppy intake this year, compared to 2019.

"There are people literally camping in our parking lot to come in with their litters, because they have nowhere else to go," she said.

"One individual had 20 puppies in their car with them."

According to Carrie Fritz, the Calgary Humane Society’s executive director, there has been a 148 per cent increase in puppy intake at the shelter this year, compared to 2019.
According to Carrie Fritz, the Calgary Humane Society’s executive director, there has been a 148 per cent increase in puppy intake at the shelter this year, compared to 2019.

According to Carrie Fritz, the Calgary Humane Society’s executive director, there has been a 148 per cent increase in puppy intake at the shelter this year, compared to 2019. (Radja Mahamba/CBC)

The economy is another factor driving the increase in abandoned animals. The rising cost of living has meant that many people simply can't afford the cost of caring for their pets.

"There's a lot of families that are one bill away from having to make a really difficult decision," she said.

Add in a shortage of veterinarians across the country, and the lack of pet-friendly housing in Calgary, and Fritz said the factors really begin to pile up.

"We've created this perfect storm."

The Home for the Holidays campaign is intended to relieve some of those pressures. Its goal is to find homes for all the animals available for adoption.

Anna-Lee Fitzsimmons, the director of public relations at the CHS, said adoption fees will be covered by sponsors during the campaign and adopting families will receive a month's worth of food and free pet toys and accessories.

She said the CHS shelter has been operating at-capacity or over-capacity for the majority of 2023.

"Adoptions have slowed down, which is pretty alarming to us. We are seeing a lot of puppies, unfortunately, really grow up in the shelter, which is not best for their development, despite our best efforts," said Fitzsimmons.

The goal is to attract 200 adopters and 150 foster homes over the month of December, Fitzsimmons said, and she's confident they'll be able to reach those numbers.

"When we ask for help, the city hears us and they come to our aid."