Then & Now: Animal Health at Calgary Humane Society

Then and now story image

I joined the shelter shortly after they had hired their first full time veterinarian in the early 1990s.

Back then, the Calgary Humane Society sheltered around 13,000 animals per year.

Now, it takes in less than half that many animals, around 6,000 per year.

Back then, we were able to find homes for almost all of the dogs that were in adoption, but we were only able to find homes for about 30% of the cats.

Now, with less incoming animals and multiple other factors, there are no time limits for dogs, cats, rabbits and exotics; they are able to stay in the shelter until they find their new homes.

Back then, the Calgary Humane Society had just implemented their spay neuter policy, all animals 6 months and older would be spayed or neutered before leaving the shelter.

Now, with pediatric surgeries (puppies and kittens), all animals are spayed or neutered before leaving the shelter.

Back then, there was one full time vet and two full-time animal health technicians.

Now, there are three full-time vets, four full-time animal health technicians, and three animal health assistants.

Back then, dogs and cats were vaccinated, de-wormed and health checked.  Minor problems, such as simple wounds or abscesses were repaired and treated, but animals with more serious medical problems rarely made it to adoptions.

Now, with less incoming animals, more staff, and enough homes for all of our sheltered animals, incoming animals with more serious issues such as fractures, conditions needing corrective eye surgeries, wounds requiring grafting, medical conditions requiring workups and longer convalescence are able to be treated and then have their time in adoption.

Back then, a lot of older animals needed dentals, but dentals were very basic: extractions and ultrasonic cleaning as needed.

Now, a lot of older animals still need dentals, but dentals are much more sophisticated using dental x-rays, a high-speed dental drill, a variety of dental tools to give these dogs and cats and clean start for their new home.

Back then, there was no separate behaviour testing, just comments made during their health exam.

Now, there is a behaviour assessment done on every dog, with profiling and comments to help adoption staff match dogs to the perfect adopter. There are also shelter behaviour classes and a behaviour help line for follow-up support.

Back then, the shelter was always willing to assist people in crisis with pet care.

Now, there are established programs for emergency boarding and pet safekeeping to continue to assist people in the community that are in crisis.

Back then, a very new foster care program had just started; a volunteer managed the program, and contact was made by phone calls to a hand full of foster parents.

Now, a full time staff member manages the program, with email contact to hundreds of foster parents and families, making the program much quicker in response time and volume. It has provided out of shelter space to help animals grow, rest, recover, and keep safe until space becomes available in the shelter for them to return.

Much has changed in the past 23 years.  A vision for a better life for homeless and less fortunate animals has made steady progress from then to now.  Calgary is a great city that has always generously supported the Calgary Humane Society in its work, both then, and now.

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