October 19, 2016 12:30 am

High River animal shelter saved after public plea

WATCH ABOVE: Alberta's economic downturn is having a big impact on people who own pets. The number of surrendered and stray animals is rising and in October of 2016, High River's Heaven Can Wait animal shelter said it couldn't afford the vet bills and other costs. Sarah Offin filed this report on Oct. 14, 2016.


A southern Alberta animal shelter that provided a safe haven for four-legged refugees during the 2013 floods has been rescued itself.

The Heaven Can Wait Animal Rescue Foundation near High River was close to shutting its doors due to a lack of money.

“I did end up having to cash in the last of my investments that I’d made when I sold my house a number of years ago and I knew that we had about $5,000 left in the bank. We owed money everywhere,” said owner Kim Hessel.

Story continues below

“I honestly anticipated we would have to shut down by December and probably sooner, honestly, because there wouldn’t have been enough to keep going.”

But a crowdsourcing campaign created by one of the shelter’s volunteers has brought in $102,000.

READ MORE: High River looking to rescue its only animal shelter from economic downturn

Hessel said people have also been making cash donations in person, dropping off food supplies and sending money through e-transfers. She said donations came in from Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, Montana, California, Florida and even the United Kingdom.

“It somehow touched people, and I’m going to remember that when I deal with the people I struggle with,” Hessel said.

“It’s restored a big chunk of my faith in humanity. You see a lot of ugliness in animal welfare and those are things I don’t normally talk about. What I’m going to remember is those cases are isolated incidents. There’s truly a lot of good in this community and this world.”

Hessel’s shelter provided a temporary refuge for up to 2,000 dogs, cats, birds and lizards that were left behind when a mandatory evacuation prompted by flooding forced people from their homes in High River in June 2013.

She said the shelter is now safe for at least a year, which will give it time to get charity status to make fundraising easier.

Heaven Can Wait has been open since 1999 and operates along with the Room to Run Boarding Kennel, which has helped to finance it for years.

Hessel said there are 172 cats and 32 dogs at the shelter right now.

The same sort of financial stress that nearly forced the shelter to close down has also led to an increase in people surrendering their animals, she said.

“I remember in December of last year when I really started to see the calls increase from owner surrenders: ‘I can’t keep my cat. I can’t keep my dog. I’m moving because I have a better job opportunity or I’ve just lost my job and I can’t afford this,'” Hessel said.

“We used to get, on average, 20 calls a week from people saying, ‘Can you help me?’ That’s jumped up consistently to 75 or 100 calls a week. I think people are legitimately worried about the future and waiting for economies to change and their fortunes to increase.”

© 2016 The Canadian Press

Report an error


Want to discuss? Please read our Commenting Policy first.

Global News