Pemberton's animal shelter preps for busy months ahead

The Pemberton Animal Wellbeing Society (PAWS) is gearing up for a busy few months ahead, as the animal shelter it operates continues to be jam-packed full of pets for adoption.

Anna Scott, the society’s outgoing executive director, said unwanted litters make up a lot of their numbers.

“A lot of animals that aren’t spayed or neutered are running around and reproducing at very quick levels,” she said. “One cat can have a litter by six, eight months old. Then those kittens can have their own litters. You can see how quickly it would get out of control. A lot of people see a cute puppy on Facebook and agree to take it on. Then by the time it’s turning into a teenage dog, they end up bringing them over here. We often get dogs here at around the year mark.”

The number of unwanted animals has continued to increase since a COVID-19 pandemic-fuelled adoption spree.

“There was a huge increase,” said Scott. “We used to get lulls in surrenders. There would be times when the shelter would be empty for weeks or maybe a month. We haven’t had that since COVID-19. We are over our capacity. We have quite a small set-up, but all the shelters in the whole corridor are packed.”

As the holiday season approaches, staff at PAWS reiterated that caring for an animal is a long-term endeavour, not just for Christmas.

“Animals are not gifts,” said PAWS manager Zara Waelchli. “They are a life-long commitment for their life.”

Assistant manager Imogen Lowery explained some families decide to adopt this time of year when they know they will be sticking around home for the holidays, given how frightening a change in environment can be for a young pup or kitten.

“Usually with our animals, they are used to shelter life,” she said. “They need time to decompress when they are going into any new environment. Christmas with lots of social activities is not the best time. That is one thing you want to avoid: taking home a new animal and then having 25 people in the house. It would be a pretty horrible way for them to start their new life and sets them up for failure.”

PAWS is ready for some new hands on deck, with a new post seeking volunteers generating plenty of interest.

“It is like a job. We have to come in and clean. There are a lot of animals and a lot of poop,” she said. “We have to find the people who are ready for that, as well as the cute stuff like cuddling the puppies. We are actively looking for dedicated volunteers at the moment who are willing to come in at least once a week for two hours.”

The crew also desperately needs drivers to usher animals to vet appointments.

“One of the big things we are looking for at the moment are drivers who drive from Squamish to Pemberton a lot,” said Lowery. “We work quite a bit with Eagleview Veterinary Hospital [in Squamish]. A lot of our animals get their spay and neuter surgeries at Eagleview, so we are always looking for people who can be added to our driver list.”

Among the dogs currently up for adoption at PAWS is the so-called “Hip-Hop Crew”: Missy Smelliot, Tupup, Diggy Azalea, Salt-N-Pupper, Puff Doggy, Busta Ruffs, Doja Dog, Cardi Bark and, of course, Snoop Dog.

Meanwhile, the shelter’s annual Santa PAWS fundraiser will be held Nov. 18, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., at North Arm Farm, where pets and families can pose with the bearded man himself. Proceeds from a raffle and silent auction will all go straight to PAWS. Staff stressed everyone is welcome, not just those with pets.

PAWS also recently paid an emotional goodbye to Scott, who began in 2017 as a volunteer before assuming the executive director role in 2019.

“I’m just about to go on maternity leave and I’m emotional about it,” said Scott. “This has been my life for the last five years. Working with animals literally saved my life. I was in a very bad place when I started volunteering here just as a once-a-week volunteer. It gave me purpose and it gave me something to think about other than myself and what was in my head. For me, the best reward is seeing these animals going to their forever homes.”

Roisin Cullen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Pique Newsmagazine