How to help animals in the midst of crisis
The following article has been adapted from CBC’s Manitoba podcast.
The story has been edited for clarity.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, a Winnipeg clinic became a focal point for the province’s animal emergency care.
In 1992, it opened a clinic on a farm in northern Manitoba, a place where doctors were trained to treat and rehabilitate animals.
The clinic has since expanded into two locations, one in Winnipeg, and another in the city of Saskatoon.
But it remains an animal hospital, with an annual operating budget of $15 million.
Dr. Janette K. Kalliopouro, who has been a veterinarian at the clinic since 1999, has seen some of the hardest situations.
“I saw a kitten, a couple of cats that had been taken away by the owners, and I saw a couple dogs,” Kallopouro said.
“I had to euthanize a dog that was too big for its cage.”
She said she saw many of the animals who had come to the clinic after being rescued from shelters, including two dogs that had not been properly spayed or neutered.
“They were like human skeletons in a grave,” KALLOPOURO said.
“Some of the most vulnerable animals have been put through these awful processes,” she said.
Animal shelters are an important part of the animal health care system, and a shelter has to meet the basic requirements to survive.
It has to have access to food and shelter, and it has to be monitored regularly.
But the Manitoba Animal Health Authority is concerned about the way the clinic is operating.
“It’s an unsafe environment,” said the agency’s executive director, Dr. Stephen T. Hogg.
“In many ways it’s like a human zoo.
It’s not a shelter, but it’s very much like a hospital.”
Kallopour said the clinic has been understaffed, and she believes that’s the reason why animals are dying.
She said the owners have had a bad history of violence, and there’s been an increase in dog attacks.
“It’s been a lot worse over the years,” Kalopouros said.
The Manitoba Veterinary Medical Association says there are too many animals in need of care in the province.
“There’s no real control of how many animals are being kept in those facilities, because the numbers are so high,” said association president Karen O’Keefe.
“We’re talking about the animals that have been abandoned, we’re talking to the families, we are going to the people who have been placed into the shelter, to try to get a better understanding of what’s happening, what’s going on.”
O’Keefe said the provincial government needs to do more to address the crisis.
“There’s so much wrong in our care of animals, but I don’t think we can just sit back and watch the crisis unfold,” she told CBC News.
The provincial government has pledged to spend $3 million over the next three years to help find and rehabilitite animals at shelters.
It will also expand access to veterinarians to help improve the care of all animals.
“We want to work with the shelters, the animal control officers, the staff at the shelters to try and improve the facilities, and to make sure that the animals are not dying on the street or in the animal shelters,” said Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness David Switzer.
“If we don’t do anything about it, then we’re just going to have more animal deaths.”