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Alberta SPCA seizes animals from Airdrie animal rescue organization

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Alberta SPCA seizes animals from Airdrie animal rescue organization
The Alberta SPCA has seized a number of animals from EJ Rescue Foundation. As Tracy Nagai reports, two people were also arrested at the scene for obstructing peace officers. – Dec 6, 2023

An Airdrie dog rescue has had a number of dogs removed from its operations after neighbouring businesses and members of the community complained to the Alberta SPCA about apparent conditions there.

Alberta SPCA confirmed they visited a business in Airdrie along with Airdrie bylaw enforcement and Airdrie RCMP on Tuesday, where they seized a number of dogs that are now in SPCA care.

Robin Crosby said when EJ Rescue moved into the space next door to the business she works at, there weren’t too many issues, other than barking.

On its Facebook page, EJ Rescue says it is “committed to doing our best to give dogs in need a better life.”

“They’re licensed by the city to have 60 dogs in there. So you can only imagine the amount of urine, feces, barking distress from the animals,” Crosby said. “Sometimes you’ll hear them howling or crying for hours and hours at a time.”

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She said the smell emanating from the rescue got so bad, her and her colleagues called the SPCA.

“The smell, if you want to talk about smell, it’s putrid. It’s I don’t know if people (will) remember what a bucket full of baby diapers smelled like when they were dirty, but it’s like the high urine and high ammonia,” Crosby said.

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The SPCA said an investigation into the business is ongoing.

Global News reached out to EJ Rescue via email and in person, however no one inside wanted to talk with us.

But others in the animal rescue community have been raising the alarm about that facility for months.

Alexandra Cerato, vice president of Tails of the Misunderstood Canine Rescue Society, said she visited the facility in February.

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“As soon as I walked into the building, the smell of defecation and urine was so heavy that I couldn’t even breathe,” Cerato said.

“There was four dogs that came out of the back room that was locked up and they were all emaciated. They were stained with urine. They smelled like feces. They looked in really bad shape and they were hyper crazy coming out because they’ve been locked in little kennels practically the whole time.

“As a rescue director, I think it’s sickening.”

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Fosters gone bad

Victoria Ironside approached EJ to foster a dog for a couple of months.

She says her experience inside that facility was similar to what Cerato saw.

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“And I’m only five feet nine tall and the stuff was piled up past my head. It was blankets. It was food,” Ironside said. “I was looking at it and I couldn’t even figure out what it was.”

When Ironside got the dog home and fed him, she saw some concerning behaviour.

“He drank the one bowl of water immediately. So I thought, well, maybe he’s dehydrated. So I gave him another. He drank that as well,” she said. “He wouldn’t stop eating the food like he was just like he’d been starving, like he’s not seen food.”

Ironside sought medical and dental records from EJ for the dog before taking him home, and received assurances of being neutered, vaccinations, his age, and having microchip ID.

“When I was in the vet office, I asked them to scan for a microchip. There was no microchip, so I was very disappointed in that,” she said. “And I said, ‘Well, then that means to me that do I trust her, that he’s had his shots, he’s dewormed.’”

Volunteers departing

Twyla Johnson is a former volunteer with EJ Rescue. She said conditions at the animal rescue drove her to leave.

“When a group of us left in 2019, there was 58 dogs in the daycare/rescue at the time,” she said.

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“If you put them all in a crate and rotate potty breaks and feedings, which doesn’t happen and it should never be done, there’s not enough space for 58 dogs to live comfortably.”

Johnson expressed cynicism of whether any lasting change would come after Tuesday’s visit from the SPCA, RCMP and bylaw officers.

“I don’t know if it’s going to last because it never has in the past, but I want it to last. And I want people to know just how horrible of a rescue they are,” Johnson said. “They’re not rescuing for love.”

Animal rescues are largely unregulated in Alberta, something Cerato and others are trying to change.

“I have been in talks with a couple other rescues in Alberta about having, mandated by government level, having a system that they approve or disapprove of rescues and following the Canadian SPCA general guidelines of care and such for the animals,” she said.

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