Marty at the Fort McMurray SPCA
I’ve been working on an animal welfare project that has brought many heartwarming stories my way. This week I received a call from Misha Gaertner, executive director of the Fort McMurray SPCA. They have been no kill since their founding in 1978. For many years, they also handled animal control for the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, an expansive community with harsh winters in northeastern Alberta.
In Canada and the United States, animal control has been the last stop for many animals on their earthly journey. There's been a sad tradition that when the facility runs out of space, or the animals get too stressed and are no longer deemed “adoptable,” they’re taken out. Healthy animals. There's little hope for animals arriving with challenging behaviours, injuries or illness, in traditional animal control agencies.
Many animal lovers thought this practice was tragic, so they did something about it. They worked with animal control agencies to improve their practices, and many did improve. Others created their own rescue groups, thousands of them.
Some had the vision to take over animal control services themselves. That’s what happened in Richmond, British Columbia, when a cat rescue group expanded their work and bid on the contract. The city of 218,000 residents has been no kill for ten years. I told the heartwarming story in this video.
Fort McMurray SPCA lost the animal control contract, but they work with the current service provider. I emailed the leader of that organization. He did not say they were no kill, but said that over 98% of animals - an excellent number - leave their shelter healthy and into homes or other rescue groups. Often that rescue group is the Fort McMurray SPCA.
What about the Fort McMurray SPCA's numbers? Misha was modest. He said that there weren't as many animals as usual entering their care in 2016. They were closed for a couple of months due to the historic wildfire that evacuated the entire community.
But they played a major role in rescuing animals in that disaster. I learned from a Global News article that they went into the devastation. They had to use respirators and at first had no running water or electricity. They had to sleep in their vehicles for several nights. They transported hundreds of animals to safety.
Their save rate that year was 98.1% of 317 animals leaving their care. Every healthy and treatable animal was saved - that's no kill. But that number didn’t take into account the hundreds of animals they also rescued in the wildfire.
That’s performance. That’s love.
- Irene Plett
Topics: No kill animal sheltering, Fort McMurray SPCA, Fort McMurray wildfire, Wood Buffalo, animal welfare, Regional Animal Protection Society (RAPS), Richmond