‘Difference between life and death’: Calgary rescue raising money for pet-friendly shelter

Click to play video 'Non-profit raising money for first Calgary pet-friendly shelter' Non-profit raising money for first Calgary pet-friendly shelter
It’s an unfilled need in Calgary: a place for people who live on the streets and have pets to go for shelter. The non-profit Parachutes for Pets is now raising money to open the city’s first pet friendly shelter. Lauren Pullen reports. – Jan 31, 2020

For most pet owners, their animals are simply part of the family.

Sheri Cambly considers her dog Rufus and her cockatoo Lucy much more than pets — they’re her support system.

“These two… they’re just everything in the world to me,” Cambly said.

When she lost her job and stable housing four years ago, she had an incredibly tough choice: stay with friends and give up her pets or try and figure out a way to have a roof over her head and keep them.

“A house isn’t a home without a dog,” she said.

READ MORE: 65 and no fixed address: Calgary seniors struggle with homelessness

She ended up buying a used motor home for her and her animal family.

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“We don’t have any other options, so this is where we stay.”

But soon there may be another option for people like Cambly.

A Calgary non-profit is looking to open the city’s first pet-friendly shelter.

Parachutes for Pets helps low-income pet owners care for their animals when times are tough; helping pay for vet bills, medication, food and grooming. Cambly’s been a client for the past year.

Click to play video 'What can your dog do without long walks? How to cope with Calgary’s cold' What can your dog do without long walks? How to cope with Calgary’s cold
What can your dog do without long walks? How to cope with Calgary’s cold – Jan 14, 2020

Calgary’s recent cold snap uncovered an undeniable need.

“We were getting 50, 60 calls a day from people seeing people out on the streets with their dogs. People who had nowhere to go,” Parachutes for Pets founder Melissa David said. “So we had people step up, take in pets take in people just to get through those few days.”

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It was a generous gesture for Calgarians to open their homes, but David knew something more needed to be done.

“We are taking the plunge and trying to do Pet-Friendly Project YYC to get a pet-friendly community shelter in Calgary,” David said. “We’ve seen such a need for it in the past year of operating.”

READ MORE: Calgary woman starts food bank for homeless people’s pets: ‘That’s really helpful’

It won’t be easy  — the organization needs to raise $30,000 a year to operate the shelter.

But it’s already had some big-name support — Calgary Flames player Mikael Backlund is raising money by starting a contest for tickets to the Battle of Alberta.

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The goal is to have enough money raised by July so the shelter can open by next winter.

While Cambly has a temporary place to stay now, she said the shelter could be a stepping stone on her search for a permanent home.

Parachutes for Pets said the need for people living on Calgary streets — especially during the deep freeze of winter — is dire.

“A decent shelter where they could bring their pets, it could be the difference between life and death,” Cambly said.

For more information, visit the Parachutes for Pets website.