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'Critical need for our program': Alberta Animal Rescue Crew Society facing financial troubles

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An Alberta animal rescue organization is facing a financial struggle due to a major increase in demand this year.

The Alberta Animal Rescue Crew Society (AARCS) food assistance program reported an increase of 103 per cent in requests for pet food assistance services compared to last year.

It marks the first time in the organization's history there isn't enough food to service the pet community.

In a release, the organization said the numbers reflect a critical need for the food assistance program.

"In January and February alone, we assisted over 410 families, feeding more than 520 pets. March continued this trend, with 176 families seeking help for over 360 pets," said Rachel Cote, director of programs for AARCS.

"We are reaching out today to the community for support. Monetary donations are great, as they allow us to purchase food in bulk at reduced costs, but we also welcome donations of dog and cat kibble, canned food and litter at one of our two shelter locations."

AARCS is not the only animal food bank feeling the double whammy of increased prices and spiking demand.

Calgary-based Parachutes for Pets says the demand for its services is unprecedented and overwhelming.

"It's frightening and, you know, if I wasn't here seeing this every day, I don't think I would believe it," said Parachutes for Pets communications co-ordinator Lauren Fettig.

"There are lots of people out there right now looking for pet food support."

It's not just pet food but the rising cost of living in general that's putting pressure on pet owners, according to Calgary Humane Society director of public relations Anna-Lee Fitzsimmons.

"Affordability is at the root of all of these problems. When you look at the people that need to access our animal admissions, it's the same story: unexpected puppies, multiple pets. (They) can't afford between feeding their pets and feeding their kids," said Fitzsimmons.

"A lot of people right now are forced between either living in their car just to keep their dog, or surrendering their dog so they can put a roof over their head."

As a result, the Calgary Humane Society's kennels are full.

There are 187 dogs on a waiting list, not to be adopted, but simply to get a space inside in order to be put up for adoption.

Fitzsimmons says much of that problem can be blamed on irresponsible breeders who started their businesses to capitalize on the pandemic demand for companion animals but now can't sell the dogs they breed.

"Our puppy intake has increased by about 200 per cent since 2022, which is massive, and there doesn't seem to be any end in sight," said Fitzsimmons.

"We do believe that's related to the pandemic and irresponsible backyard breeding. That has led to an increase in unspayed, unneutered animals in the community."

Information on how to adopt an animal from the Calgary Humane Society or to make a donation to the organization can be found on its website, at calgaryhumane.ca.

AARCS Pet Food Bank is accepting monetary donations through their website, at aarcs.ca.

Food donations can be made in person at their Edmonton and Calgary shelter locations.

More information about Parachutes for Pets can be found at parachutesforpets.com.

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