Pet clinics

Community and volunteer support are key to the success of Didsbury Animal Shelter

Wild Rose Humane Society back in full fundraising mode; plans to expand rescue to accommodate dogs

DIDSBURY — A local animal shelter designed primarily for felines has, thanks to the support of the community and volunteers, managed to survive the COVID-19 storm intact.

Located in town on the former site of the Didsbury Veterinary Clinic, the Wild Rose Humane Society provides services in the region from Airdrie to Innisfail.

The non-profit organization, run by a volunteer board of directors, has only one part-time employee who works 10 hours a week. After the past two years of public health restrictions, he is now back in fundraising mode.

“Well now it’s like the floodgates are wide open and everyone is fundraising,” said Julie Gregg, board member and cat care volunteer. “We’re on that same band wagon.”

The society’s roots go back more than 10 years, when a group of community volunteers came together to begin offering educational sessions and promoting animal welfare, said Mark Fournier, treasurer, who joined the organization in 2017.

At the time, Fournier said some people from the municipality’s by-laws department were active on council and a need for an animal sanctuary in the area was eventually identified.

“The group at the time did a phenomenal amount of fundraising and went to town and managed to raise the money and the resources to get the building,” he said, adding the former Vet Clinic — which was acquired just before he arrived on set — was a great place to turn into an animal sanctuary.

After completing some work on the building – which includes a variety of different rooms for cats as well as storage and office space – the company began accepting felines in the summer of 2018, he said. declared.

“Since then, we’ve been taking cats into the shelter,” he said, adding that the rescue focuses on fostering and adoption, but also occasionally takes in felines who have been abandoned.

“We have a variety of different rooms. Most of our cats are not in kennels,” he said. “I always call a kennel a kind of time out box, if a cat is a bit aggressive towards other cats or just needs a quiet place.”

Improvements to accommodate dogs

During the lull imposed by the pandemic, the company has worked hard to continue upgrading the facility’s infrastructure, he said.

“Physically, we’re almost ready to take dogs on,” he said. “Now we just need to make sure the funding and volunteer capacity is in place to accommodate the dogs in the shelter.”

Although the shelter mainly houses cats – about 20 of them – and is not yet officially accepting canine companions, Fournier said the company has had a number of dogs come through their doors in a few “one-off scenarios”. . But the dogs need “much more care”, he added.

While cats basically need two daily shifts that involve a volunteer dropping by to watch and feed the felines as well as clean their litter box, dogs need multiple walks each day as well as a whole lot more attention. individual, he said.

The goal of the society is, basically, to find permanent homes for the felines. But once in a while, a cat that is more independent than most and prefers the solitude of roaming the outdoors alone rather than staying indoors perched on top of a scratching post, will walk through the doors of the shelter, a he declared.

“So we have a barn cat program,” he said, adding that these cats – which have been vaccinated and modified like all the others – are offered for adoption at a lower rate.

And just because they’re not meant to live in a house, the new owner is still expected to provide shelter in an outdoor structure such as a barn or store, Gregg added for further details.

“They’re not just meant to be free roaming,” she said.

No COVID redemption push

Although Fournier said he heard some of the “horror stories” from major urban centers like Calgary and Edmonton, where many people who at the start of the pandemic bought cats as pets to avoid fever and cabin boredom ended up regretting their decision. while the restrictions were lifted, he said the company has not seen a wave of surrenders.

“We are still getting dropouts. But I would say the amount we got was more or less in line with what we’ve seen in previous years,” he said.

It could be a simple matter of geography and the fact that rural areas don’t have a lot of apartment buildings like cities, so rural dwellers who have taken animals into their homes during the pandemic seem to have , for the most part, kept these pets, he said.

The most common abandonments, he added, are either when people move house and cannot take the pet with them, or when an elderly person who had one or more cats dies without including anything in their will.

“These cats will come to us, and these are the ones that we always find a bit heartbreaking,” he said. “We are trying to give them a new home as soon as possible, because they are just victims of circumstances.”

In situations where an elderly person has multiple cats that have bonded over the years, he said the company works hard to find a home that will welcome them all together.

Community support and dedicated volunteers save society

Fournier unhesitatingly attributed the society’s continued ability to operate over the past two years to community support and excellent volunteers.

Although the company’s origins date back more than 10 years, momentum only really started to build in 2018-19, he said.

“Like everyone else, it came to a halt very quickly in 2020,” he said, adding that society survived in large part because of people’s commitment to the rescue.

This also included the municipality, he said.

“Like everyone else, our fundraising came to a screeching halt,” during the pandemic, he said.

“They were great throughout the process,” he said of the municipality and its administrative team. “Without their support and the support of the veterinary clinics in the area here, we would not have survived COVID.”

The society has 28 cat care volunteers, four of whom are teenagers between the ages of 15 and 18, Gregg said.

There are also some passionate young people who can only volunteer when a parent or guardian is present, she added.

“We really encourage that,” she said, adding that the company plans to run a cat care camp for children aged eight to 10 to teach them how to feed, brush, clean up after and to be responsible care for cats. suppliers.

The First Olds Guides in Olds also recently found a way to get involved by deciding to make a dozen cardboard lockers.

“Cats love boxes,” Gregg said, expressing his gratitude for the “really nice gift” from Brownies and Guides to Olds.

Anyone who wants to contribute to society can until June 4 donate gently used items that will be sent to Value Village for cash back on donations. Alternatively, the Putts 4 Paws Golf Tournament will be held on July 23 in Crossfield.

Visit for more information about the society.