I arrive at the Animal Care and Control Centre only moments before a woman comes in with a black and white Shih Tzu/Terrier cross she found running across a busy road. Customer Service Representative Megan Aubin puts down the dog she has been holding and scans the stray for a microchip (a tiny electronic device embedded between the shoulder blades with a number on it). When she inputs it on her computer, she discovers the dog has been at the Centre before. His name is Gizmo.
Megan makes an ID collar for him and calls Amy Buijze, the animal health technologist to examine him and record his health status. While he waits, Gizmo is placed in one of the small holding rooms. During his examination, Gizmo is discovered to have some flaking of the skin on one ear, which could be caused by an allergy or some sort of irritation, Amy reports. She treats it with Surolan ear drops, a topical antifungal, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory. Then Gizmo is taken to his kennel, which has a bed with a blanket, and a water bowl. A collar and leash are in a basket attached to the outside of the door.
Cats or other small animals being admitted are kept in holding kennels in the front entrance until they are examined by an Animal Health Technologist and there are staged kennels in the back for small dogs, puppies, exotic animals, large dogs, and aggressive dogs. Special kennels exist in one of the exam rooms for injured animals that need ongoing care, Corinne Pitts, Customer Service Representative, explains. There are also isolation areas for sick cats and dogs. Cats with no ID are held for three business days before being taken to the Edmonton Humane Society building next door. Dogs with no ID are held for four business days. Cats or dogs with ID are held for up to 10 business days.
In Gizmo’s case, the owner on file will be called, but if the Centre didn’t have current contact information, Gizmo would be put on PetLynx.net, a lost-and-found pet website that automatically matches found animal reports with potential owners by species, colours, and other data. “Registration on PetLynx is free for the first week,” Corinne explains. Animals are automatically shown on www.edmonton.ca/pets, which is linked to the Centre’s admissions database and updates every 20 minutes.
Corinne stresses the importance of having licence tags, microchips, or tattoos, on your pets to make it easier to track owners. “It’s also important to update your records if you move or give the pet away,” she says. “We find that licence tags and microchips usually work better than tattoos (which can blur or fade as the animal ages) – especially when the microchip information is on the licence account.”
Earlier this month, they were able to reunite a tortoiseshell cat named Peanuts with its owners because it had a tattoo. Peanuts had been missing for a year and a half! “You found my cat!” The owner could hardly believe it. “I thought she was missing forever.”
“We’ve reunited pets missing as long as 15 years with their owners,” Corinne says. The cat in question, Mouse, had been spayed and tattooed, but escaped and ran away when the owners were moving. Mouse showed up at the Centre 15 years later. A family member was contacted by phone from a number on a cancelled licence.
Gizmo spends only an hour at the Centre before his exasperated and relieved owner arrives. Gizmo had escaped through the open garage door when she was putting out the garbage prior to driving her son to school. “As annoying as he is, we love him to pieces,” she says.
Before releasing him, one of the Centre’s tracers, Bernie Villeneuve, checks the owner’s ID against their data base. She determines that Gizmo’s licence is valid, and the last time Gizmo was picked up was in 2012, so he is eligible for a “free ride home”. This means the owner will be charged only a $25 kennel fee and the cost of the ear drops; the $100 fine for “dog at large” will be waived. Had Gizmo been unlicensed, the fine would have been $250.
There is a cat sleeping in a basket on Bernie’s desk. This is Molly – the facility cat. She lives at the Centre, and provides much needed stress relief for many of the staff.
Corinne and the other staff at the Centre are clearly passionate about animals. They find it emotionally difficult when animals are deliberately dumped, injured in horrendous ways, or their owners refuse to come get them. It is also very trying when animals come in without pet licences and we cannot locate their owners. If they have serious health or behavioural issues, a few of these animals may be put to sleep compassionately and humanely. However, more often than not we are able to work through these behavioural challenges by providing enrichment and social interaction, and treat health issues with quality veterinary care and even minor surgery. Although it’s heartbreaking when animals don’t go home to their families, most of them will find a new “forever home” thanks to our partnership with the Edmonton Humane Society and many other Edmonton-area animal rescue organizations.
Fortunately, staff at ACCC also have the satisfaction of helping animals such as Peanuts, Mouse, and Gizmo whose owners are thrilled to see them and take them home.