Some BC SPCA branches have been fielding a lot of calls recently from people wondering why they have no pets for adoption.

“The reality is, especially this branch, we are a cruelty investigation centre,” said Chloé MacBeth, branch manager with the Chilliwack SPCA. “People will often think because there are no animals for adoption we must not be doing anything, and that couldn’t be further from the truth.”

For the past three weeks, staff at the Chilliwack SPCA have been busy caring for 11 dogs from a large intake where 97 animals were seized from a farm in Princeton. They were transported to several SPCA branches throughout the province.

READ MORE: 97 distressed horses, cats and dogs seized from farm in Princeton

The animals were living in a poor environment with lack of shelter, unsanitary living conditions, overcrowding, poor ventilation and exposure to injurious objects. Many of them have parvovirus enteritis, a highly contagious virus that causes an infectious gastrointestinal illness. Some have even died.

In order for staff at the branches that specialize in cruelty investigations to properly care for those sick animals, all the adoptable pets at that branch – from dogs to cats to rats – get transferred to other branches.

It’s like “playing a game of Tetris with these animals” to figure out where they can all go, MacBeth said.

Staffing, space and capacity is what determines that, and each branch has its own niche depending on the staff and the resources it has.

The Chilliwack branch is one of several across the province that specializes in cruelty investigations, and it’s an exhausting job.

The branch was under quarantine for two weeks due to the parvovirus enteritis, and during that time staff needed to wear full personal protective equipment whenever they came in contact with the dogs.

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Last week, MacBeth geared up in a hazmat suit, gloves and hair net just to prepare and distribute treats for the canines. She then had to sanitize the entire area when she was done.

When the SPCA is dealing with a seizure like the one from Princeton, it’s a provincial collaboration. All teams, including the SPCA’s animal transportation program, animal health department, and behaviour and welfare department are just some of the groups working together to care for the neglected animals.

Even volunteers lend a hand in large-scale intakes such as interacting with the animals in shelter or fostering them at their own home. Fosters are “crucial” to the success of any kind of intake, MacBeth said.

“All of the branches pitch in so no one branch is burdened with the care of all of the animals,” she added.

So when animals from an intake come in to certain branches, it’s out with the adoptable animals and in with the vulnerable ones.

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But why clear out the cat kennels if a branch is only taking in dogs from the seizure?

“It’s a matter of staffing. Our team is devoting all of their resources, all of their time and energy to supporting these animals needs.”

The animals are in need of medical treatment, they have to be shuttled to and from veterinarian appointments, and their behavioural needs need to be met. None of that can be done if they have to care for additional animals, like those up for adoption.

But folks can still adopt animals through the SPCA because while some branches are solely caring for vulnerable animals, many are not.

When people find a pet they’d like to adopt through the BC SPCA’s website, they have the option of making an appointment and driving to that branch to adopt the animal, or get it transferred (for a fee) to a branch that’s not under quarantine. Pets cannot be transferred to a branch that’s under quarantine.

And the demand lately for adoptable pets has been high.

The pandemic has resulted in an increase in adoptions, and the average length of stay for an animal in shelter has decreased during COVID-19, MacBeth said.

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“People are actively looking for adoptable animals rather than supporting backyard breeders.”

The pandemic has also changed how they adopt out animals.

“COVID has done some really incredible things for us. It’s really pushed us into the digital age… adoption applications online is a new thing and it’s been incredible.”

It’s also been overwhelming as there could be hundreds of applications for just one animal.

“People often think the SPCA is just adoptions or just surrenders and the reality is it’s so much more than that,” MacBeth said.

RELATED: Hoarding cats often a mental health issue: Chilliwack SPCA


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