Happy Valley SPCA ‘in crisis mode’

Bonnie Learning
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Siren was found roaming and was brought to the shelter in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. He had a case of canine lice and was very grateful to be rescued.
— Photo by Bonnie Learning/The Labradorian

For staff and volunteers of Labrador’s only SPCA, it is a revolving-door cycle that will seemingly never end.

“As soon as one or a couple of animals are moved to their new homes or to other SPCAs or animal rescues in or out of the province, we have more waiting to come in,” said Lee Hill, president and shelter manager for the Happy Valley-Goose Bay SPCA. “It’s a never-ending cycle. We literally have a wait list to take in animals — from the north coast of Labrador in particular.”

Hill noted this year the shelter has been getting more and more calls for individuals from both central and northern Labrador to take in litters of puppies.

While she’s pleased there appears to be more of an effort by the public to save the lives of stray puppies, it also puts more strain on the SPCA’s limited resources.

“For anyone that knows us, and knows what our current shelter consists of, it is very difficult to take in large numbers of animals,” said Hill.

“We try to shuffle (the animals) as much as we can, but because we also want to give the animals in our care a good quality of life at the shelter, we simply cannot cram an untold number of dogs into the five dog runs or dozens of cats into our little 8x10 cat room.”

Hill and the volunteer board are pleading to the public — in particular the Upper Lake Melville area — to consider opening their hearts and homes to one or more of Labrador’s unwanted, abandoned, stray or owner-surrendered cats, puppies, kittens or dogs.

There are many different categories of foster homes that one can consider.

“Our most urgent need 100 per cent of the time is long-term fosters,” said Hill, explaining “long-term” means two weeks and longer.

“Depending on the numbers we have at the shelter at any given time, there are times when we might need long-term fosters for up to a few months,” she said. “Situations can change at any time.”

Short-term fosters — anywhere from a few days to two weeks — are also needed, as are “emergency fosters.”

“These emergency fosters are especially important if we get an unexpected call late into the evening, or on a weekend, when we like to cause as little disruption (as possible) to the animals at the shelter,” Hill explained.

“Emergency fosters would generally be available at a moment’s notice to take something into their home from anywhere to 24-48 hours, until we can assess the situation.”

Hill said an outbreak of parvovirus has also produced a need for foster homes. The shelter has to close for 10 days, with no animals coming in or out.

Hill said the SPCA has been in “crisis mode” several times this summer.

“We have literally just been getting by at the very last minute (in finding fosters),” said Hill.

“We have been very, very lucky so far, but the time will undoubtedly come when our luck will run out from sheer lack of foster homes. I cannot stress enough how desperately we need the public’s help.”

Catherine Montague Younge is not only an SPCA board member, but also an emergency foster.

In the past three weeks alone she has fostered three litters of motherless puppies, after pleas for help on the SPCA’s Facebook sites were unsuccessful.

“I've fostered three different litters back to back while caring for my own three elderly dogs, all of which have medical issues,” she noted. “While it was hectic at times and a bit of juggling was involved, I knew these puppies deserved a chance at finding a loving home to call their own. Out of those 17 puppies to date, all but three have found their forever homes.”

Montague Younge said she has fostered both single pups and full litters during the past couple of years, and personally finds it easier to care for a younger litter.

“I set up a big area for them in my garage and just let them be puppies — a place where they can run and play with their littermates while not having to worry about being cold, wet or hungry,” she said.

“I provide a warm place to sleep, a full belly and a few cuddles and reassurances. In return, I get all the puppy kisses I could ever wish for as their way of saying ‘thank you.’”

The Labradorian

Geographic location: Labrador, Happy Valley, Northern Labrador Upper Lake Melville

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