Over the past several days the Alberta Pound and Rescue Centre (APARC) has seen a lower-than-usual reclamation rate for animals in their care, specifically dogs. And while the intake rate hasn't exponentially increased, the pets that are in the centre are staying longer and longer with no owners coming forward.

On April 24, APARC announced that effective immediately it would temporarily be adjusting its operational hours from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The change in hours was to facilitate the staff to be able to have more time to take care of the animals in their care. Karlia Engel, one of the members of the management staff at APARC said that the majority of the dogs that are in their care are fairly new intakes. There are 14 dogs currently at APARC, with two of those dogs in foster care. 

"With our rising amount of dogs, the extra hour in the evenings is needed for them to get the appropriate care they need. It's not possible to do it in the two hours right now, that we were doing previously," Engel said.

She added that the centre has a total of 11 kennels and an additional two crates; one of those kennels has to be free in case a dog with a bite injury comes in. 

"We had two reclaims just yesterday, but that has been it for the past seven or eight dogs we've had in here. After that, if a certain period of time has passed, they'll [the dogs] be taken to a vet to be checked out - [to make sure their] vaccines are up-to-date and then they're assessed for our adoption program."

She added that the majority of the dogs that are coming in have no identification, whether that is tags, collars, or microchips. She said it's difficult to pinpoint why dogs aren't microchipped and what the rationale of dog owners is for not getting their dogs microchipped. Microchipping costs range from $25 to $60.

Engel urged dog owners to strongly consider microchipping their pets.

"If I were to speak to dog owners in preventing situations like this: having your pet end up in a shelter, making sure they have some form of I.D. on them at all times, is absolutely the first step when it comes to getting these animals home."

And it's not just the staff that are anxious about what is happening at the centre, the dogs are feeling it too.

"It's really stressful because of increased amounts of noise; there are more dogs in the room than what they're used to. We've had to adjust how we do enrichment: they get extra time outside, and we have more time in the evenings now to spend with them one on one. But, yes it is a concern." 

The increased amount of dogs at the centre has spurred some very difficult conversations among staff, conversations that no one thought they'd have to broach. Engel stressed the euthanization of dogs is not something they ever want to consider in these kinds of circumstances. However, last week, there were moments when this topic was considered - though she underlined euthanization is only considered as an absolute last resort and staff are doing everything in their power to make sure it remains a distant hypothetical situation. She explained that because APARC can't refuse stray animals, considering it is the service they are contracted to provide - it makes it all the harder. 

"We really, really hope that we don't have to ever get to that point that [euthanasia] has to be considered a solution. But, last week, we were getting to that point, where we knew that it was something we were going to have to talk about."

She did note there seems to be some hope as foster families for dogs are being lined up and volunteers are working tirelessly to make sure the animals at APARC have everything they need.

"I'm even taking a dog home to foster; So things are slowly starting to get back on track."

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