Calgarians can help homeless animals while still getting breeds they desire
Breed-specific dog rescue organizations are joining forces to educate Calgarians on how to find the right pet for their family, while still being able to help a dog in need.
Multi-group adoption events, or adopt-a-thons, are gaining popularity in the city. During the events, different rescue organizations will gather in a public place, such as a mall parking lot, and feature some of their animals available for adoption, as well as provide information to those interested.
There are Alberta-based rescues available for a variety of breeds including beagles, dachshunds, greyhounds, bulldogs and mutts. Together, these organizations are working to spread the message to those looking for a pet that they can easily get the specific breed they are looking for in a dog, while rescuing an animal at the same time.
Each breed has its own characteristics, and its own reasons for needing to be rescued.
Amy Gowertz, founder of the Little Mutts Rescue Society, says she decided to focus on rescuing small, mixed-breed dogs after seeing on television how many strays were in need following Hurricane Katrina.
She takes "mutts" from the United States, where they have a high euthanasia rate due to overcrowding, and brings them to Calgary where they're in high demand.
"People get frustrated, alwaysmissing out on the smaller dogs in local humane societies," Gowertz said."They end up buying dogs from local pet stores, who generally get their dogs from puppy mills or backyard breeders."
Kalie Reimer is another believer in breed-specific rescues. She started Alberta Bulldog Rescue in 2010 to help abandoned bulldogs find homes.
"Bulldogs have become a more trendy breed over the past few years, and the result is that people are buying them on impulse and as gifts," Reimer said. "They are not aware of the care involved."
The volunteers, who all have experience with bulldogs, provide the specialized care that the rescued dogs need until they find a new home. Reimer said she enjoys being part of the rescue community, and that each organization is important.
"Not everyone can be an expert at everything," Reimer said. "As a smaller rescue, we are able to get to know each animal that comes into our care. Breed-specific rescues enable the public to easily support their breed of choice, whether it's through volunteer work, donations or adoption.
"It's also a great way for families looking to adopt a bulldog to find them all in one place."
Other breeds, such as pit bulls, have a more obvious reason for needing rescuing. With certain provinces enforcing a pit bull ban, the dogs often face discrimination based on their appearance, which can sometimes result in life-threatening situations for the animals.
Pit Bulls for Life president Tia Lenz and her volunteers dedicate themselves to rescuing what Lenz says is "the most misunderstood breed in the world."
But Calgarians might be especially surprised to find out that they can get a common household breed, like a beagle or a golden retriever, from rescues in Alberta.
The Calgary branch of Beagle Paws, a Canadian beagle rescue organization, focuses on bringing beagles from Newfoundland and Labrador, where the dogs are primarily treated as hunting animals. The organization then adopts the dogs out to families in the Calgary area.
Beagle Paws volunteer Erin Coburn said that the beagles are used for their keen sense of smell, but their hunting owners often consider them to be "disposable."
"It's cheaper to get rid of the pack at the end of the season and get a new one the next year," Coburn said about some of the hunting habits in eastern Canada.
But even if the owners decide to keep the dogs for another season, the treatment they receive is sometimes less than welcoming.
"Beagles stay chained in the yard, because the hunters feel that a hungry dog who doesn't have a lot of human socialization is a better hunter," Coburn said.
But here in the Western provinces, beagles are considered to be a family dog rather than a hunter.
Beagle Paws provides a fulfilling alternative to looking for a beagle at pet stores, and the volunteers also educate the public on the importance of adopting instead of buying.
"Buying is usually an impulse purchase," Coburn said. "You see the dog in the kennel at the store and think, 'Oh they're so sweet. They're so cute. Let's take one home.' It's usually a rushed decision, and the majority of those dogs in the store come from puppy mills."
But Coburn does think that people are becoming more aware of their options, and with the breed-specific rescues all working together they are able to get more animals into a safe home with a new family.
"The multi-group adoption events have been wonderful because a lot of people come and say, "I had no idea that there were this many rescues or that there were this many dogs in the city that needed rescuing,'" Coburn said.
"I think the awareness is just starting to grow due to word of mouth."
For those interested in visiting the multi-adoption groups, the next event where they will be gathering is the Strathmore Pet Expo on April 21, and the Calgary Pet Expo on May 5 - 6.
Any additional information about upcoming events will be updated on each rescue's website and Facebook page.
- By ROXANNE BLACKWELL