Musings from the ever-changing, ever-amazing and occasionally ever-baffling Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

No Room At The Inn - Fort McMurray SPCA

One of the challenges we face in this community is growth. Now, growth is a very good thing and many communities would fight for our spectacular growth - but with growth comes some really big challenges, including ones that face our non-profit organizations. And our little local SPCA? They are staring down these challenges right now, and facing the reality that there are many more to come. Why?  Because there is no room at the inn, so to speak, not a kennel free and not a spot untaken by some animal in need. And this is a situation very unlikely to change.

I'm a big fan of SPCAs. I suppose that is because I spent a decade working in veterinary clinics, and always have had a love of animals. I suppose it's also because the Intrepid Junior Blogger shares this love, including her recent SPCA adoption of her little ferret River Song (who joins the other two ferrets in our house, now making one big happy rambunctious mischievous mayhem-causing weasel family). I suppose in the end though it is because I see the value of the work they do, because as a society I believe we are judged by our treatment of our most vulnerable - our young, our elderly, our homeless, our disadvantaged, and our creatures. I believe how we treat those groups says a lot about us and who we are, or aspire to be, and so I am a fan of any organization that works to better their life. Our local SPCA falls right into this category, a no-kill shelter that works hard to find the animals in their care good homes and loving owners. Right now though there is an overflow of animals in need, and not enough homes for them. And this is a situation likely to only get worse as our community grows, because with more people comes more pets, and more animals in distress.

This morning I had a chance to chat with Tara Clarke, SPCA Executive Director. I have so much respect for everyone who works at the SPCA, because this is a world I know. I know the ups and downs, the joys and heartbreaks, of working with animals. You see them happy, and in pain. You see them playing, and suffering. You see the best - and the worst - of humanity. I remember my vet clinic days well, and how some were the best days I've ever had, and some were among the very worst, too. My respect for those who work these jobs is immense, because I know the challenges - and the rewards - very well.

Tara and I talked about how the shelter is now at maximum capacity - every kennel full, and a long waiting list of those wanting to surrender their animals. It has been so full, in fact, that this weekend, thanks to the help of three volunteers (let's just call them heroes to save time, shall we?), fifteen dogs were shuttled down to the Edmonton SPCA for adoption there. Although this happens, shelters helping each other as required, the necessity of doing so indicates how serious the issue is, especially when we must transport animals over four hours away - and knowing that as soon as those spaces are empty others will fill them. Tara commented that the vast majority of the animals at the shelter right now are ones picked up by Animal Control and not claimed, something that fills me with sorrow because these poor creatures belonged to someone. Abandoned, forgotten, or simply not loved enough to be looked for when lost they end up at the shelter, hoping for new owners. Hoping for love. Hoping, in fact, for a life, because while the shelter is wonderful it is not what an animal needs to thrive. They can give them food and love and attention and cuddles, but an animal needs a home - which is where we come in.

So, in the short term what can you do to alleviate the challenges the SPCA currently faces? You can foster an animal, giving it a temporary home until a forever-home can be found. You can provide the security and stability that the animal needs to thrive. Or, you can adopt, and provide that forever home. My circumstances are about to change and so the Intrepid Junior Blogger and I intend to adopt a cat in the next few months, bringing home a new furry to join our dog and our ferrets. You too can adopt and provide the love, security, and stability an animal so desperately needs, and I will tell you this: You might think you are doing it for the animal, but in reality you are doing it for you. Our little River Song ferret might have found her forever home but we are the ones who have been blessed by her inquisitive nature, her love of people, her affection, and her desire to groom eyebrows (and she is so gentle and so sweet that no one could deny her, either). There are those who might think adopting an animal is good for the animal, and so it is, but it is far better for the adopter, I think.

You can also donate to the SPCA, cash or needed items, many of which they list on their website (or you can call them to learn what they need most). Even if you cannot adopt you can help support the SPCA and the creatures they care for, and you can thus contribute to the well-being of the animals in need in our community. And you can do something else, too. You can begin to think about how to help in the long term, because this is not a short term problem.

If you spend time at the SPCA then you know that they are often full, no room at the inn. You know that they are already bursting at the seams, and you know that as this community grows so too will the magnitude of the challenges they face. This is just the beginning of the problem, because this one will continue to grow just as this community does, and so the SPCA needs help with the long term solution - and really the only solution is that they will need to grow, too. Their current capacity is already too small for our needs, and this will only become worse and worse over time, and so they need some commitment from our community to ensure they can continue to care for some of our most vulnerable.

Whether it is support from individuals or support from the municipality or support from industry the SPCA desperately needs it, and that is why I ask you to think about how you can help them, whether in the short term or long term. I feel so passionately about this, and not just because of my deep love for animals. It really is more about the fact that these vulnerable creatures need us, and how we treat them, how we care for them, is what defines who we are. It indicates what we value, and what we place importance upon. In the end we are not judged by the car we drive, or the house we own, how much money we make or how many toys are in our garage - we are judged by what we do for others, and especially for those who are the most vulnerable. It is that which judges us, and frankly I hope that when that judgement comes we are found to be in good shape because we have done whatever we could to improve the lives of others - including those of the creatures that share this planet with us.

My thanks to the
Fort McMurray SPCA
for the work they do every single day.

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