This little shelter in the northern capital of B.C. is making a big difference in the lives of people and pets impacted by two of the most destructive wildfire seasons the province has ever seen.
The summers of 2017 and 2018 took a huge toll on British Columbia. Wildfires destroyed thousands of acres of trees and hundreds of structures in the interior of the province. Often with little notice, residents had to flee their homes to escape the fast-moving smoke and fires.
Evacuees took their beloved household pets with them as they sought safety and a place to wait until the threat passed. But the evacuation centres just couldn’t accommodate all of the animals.
That’s when the Prince George Humane Society (PGHS) sprang into action. Although it’s considered the ‘northern capital’ of BC, Prince George has a population of just 75,000 people and, in the summer of 2017, the PGHS had been operating for only two years with a small but mighty team of dedicated volunteers.
Undaunted by the scope of the disaster, PGHS set up crates in a high school and took care of 206 dogs and cats for a 27-day period. It was a monumental job with three employees and 50 volunteers providing 24-hour care including walking the dogs every three to four hours. PGHS did this with help from community volunteers and donors. The organization received a $30,000 emergency relief grant from PetSmart Charities of Canada to support their efforts.
“Some people were living in tents or cars because they didn’t want to give up their pets,” says Angela McLaren, PGHS founder. “But when they saw the type of facility we set up, they were more open to leaving their pets with us and seeking a safer shelter for themselves, too.
In the summer of 2018, PGHS’ emergency relief work was a little smaller in scale. During that wildfire season, they took care of 159 cats for two weeks and were supported again through a $15,000 emergency relief grant from PetSmart Charities.
During both emergency relief efforts, Angela was relieved and proud that there were no disease outbreaks – something that can be a risk in circumstances like this. She was also happy that they were able to microchip and spay or neuter some of the animals during the time they stayed with PGHS.
She says the Society learned a great deal about animal welfare during these two, intense summers. PGHS is now renovating its permanent facility to include lots of natural light and calming influences like soft surfaces for the cats, and meditation music for all the animals.
PetSmart District Leader for Vancouver and Northern BC, Rita Barker, was very happy to select PGHS to receive a $5,000 field grant from PetSmart Charities of Canada. “They’re very committed to animal welfare and they never say no to animals in need,” she says.