Hundreds of animals remain unclaimed in shelters around Alberta after 80,000 people were forced to flee the Fort McMurray area one month ago.
During the mass evacuation, some residents were forced to leave their animals behind. In the days following the evacuation, Wood Buffalo’s Municipal Law Enforcement Services, the Alberta SPCA and many other animal welfare organizations conducted the largest pet evacuation in Canadian history.
While more than 1,000 pets have already been reunited with their owners, there are hundreds of cats, hamsters, dogs, birds and amphibians in facilities across Alberta. These animals were either rescued by officials in Fort McMurray following the evacuation or brought down by their owners.
Over at Meika’s Birdhouse in Sherwood Park, shop owner Ian Sprague is housing nearly 100 birds. Sprague said about 40 birds were brought down by their owners, while 57 were brought down by those involved in pet rescue in Fort McMurray.
“It’s a full house,” he said. “Now that they’re going to start coming back, they’re going to start looking for their pets.”
About 200 animals, most of which are exotic, were taken in by the Edmonton Humane Society. Some people have already reclaimed their animals, but there are still about 100 snakes, bearded dragons, fish, frogs and tarantulas left in the shelter.
“We are compassionate to the individuals who had to flee and leave their animals with us, but we are asking those people to come to the shelter and reclaim,” Edmonton Humane Society CEO Miranda Jordan-Smith said.
Jordan-Smith said the humane society will eventually have to identify a cut-off period for pet owners and adopt out the animals. At this point it’s not known when that will happen.
“We do expect that some animals would be left or surrendered to the shelter because folks might not be able to provide adequate care,” she said.
At this point there are no plans to move the animals back to Fort McMurray. Pet owners are asked to contact the Alberta SPCA at email@example.com to set up a time to claim their animal.
The Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo has a gallery of unclaimed pets on its website. If you recognize your pet, you’re asked to contact the Animal Control Branch at 780-788-4200.
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Law enforcement officers entered some homes to feed, care for and rescue animals while the town was on an evacuation notice, which means locks may have been changed on some homes. To collect your keys, residents are asked to visit the Municipal Law Enforcement/RCMP Wood Buffalo Detachment Centre at 105 Paquette Drive. Locksmiths will be available during the re-entry period.