Edmonton’s Animal Care and Control Centre has suddenly suspended the intake of healthy animals until further notice and is asking residents to care for lost or stray pets in the interim.
But animal rescues and residents are raising the alarm over the surprise change, concerned about the onus now being placed on them to take care of these animals rather than the city service Edmontonians pay for.
The City of Edmonton announced the immediate, temporary suspension on social media Saturday afternoon as extreme cold temperatures are expected to continue to bear down on the city over the next week.
The temporary change is a result of staffing and capacity challenges, the city said, noting the shift would allow the centre to focus on the animals already being cared for at the northwest Edmonton facility.
Instead of bringing lost or stray dogs and cats into the centre, the city is asking residents to make attempts to find the owner on their own and care for the animal until they are reunited. If the animal has a tag with a licence number on it, residents can call 311 for owner information. Animals that are considered to be in medical distress, injured or sick will still be accepted by appointment only.
But Vanessa Freeman, co-founder of the rescue Community Cats Edmonton, said this could lead to many challenges including the ability for already stretched rescues to help care for these animals if residents can’t. Lack of communication from the city has left rescues scrambling to come up with a solution, Freeman said, noting she received four calls on Sunday alone about cats needing assistance.
“Rescues are busy, we are full. So to make a change and not ask rescues to help in any way but simply imply that if the city can’t help, the rescues have to. I just don’t understand that,” she said. “I’m just not sure if this action was made thinking of the impact it would have on the animals and the community.”
Dog owner Valerie Bielenda said she believes many residents will do whatever it takes to protect animals from the current extreme cold weather, but this could lead to issues if the animal is aggressive or unvaccinated and residents are left alone to manage.
“It’s not acceptable because they’re putting the public at risk because if you by chance take in an aggressive dog, then there’s a risk for the humans,” she said. “This can’t be a safe alternative, it can’t be what they expect people to do.”
Appointments for animals ill, injured or in distress can still be made online.
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