April 14th, 2024

City shelter dogs given more room to romp


By Steffanie Costigan - Lethbridge Herald Local Journalism Initiative Reporter on March 16, 2024.

Herald photo by Steffanie Costigan Skylar Plourde and Ambreah Kelly celebrate the opening of Lethbridge Animal Shelter's new fenced dog run by throwing a ball for Tank the dog on Friday morning.

Community Animal Services has opened a new fenced dog run at its animal shelter in north Lethbridge.

When city councillor John Middleton-Hope – who until April 1 serves in capacity as acting mayor – and his granddaughter Ambreah Kelly got involved in volunteering to walk dogs at the shelter, upon visiting it they noticed a need for a fenced dog run and proposed to city council to provide funding for the needed fenced in dog run.

“We would walk the dogs along the highway here. Tank actually is he’s a big dog. He’s about 120 pounds or more. And he is very well behaved this afternoon, but he can pull. And so we had a conversation about ‘geez, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to have the dogs off leash?'” said Middleton-Hope on Friday.

Middleton-Hope described the support received for the decision to fund the fenced run from his colleagues at the City of Lethbridge.

“My colleagues were 100 per cent supportive of it. And the rest is history. They found the funding and they built it.

“This was at a time when we made decisions that we would not be building any more compounds or dog off-leash areas in any of the communities until we started to build new communities. . . This is a little bit different because this is at the animal shelter. We saw that there was an absolute need here,” he said.

The new fenced area is 420 square metres in size.

Community Animal Services Director of Services and Enforcement Skylar Plourde shared the gratitude Lethbridge Animal Shelter has for the much needed fenced dog run.

“We’re super excited to have this space provided to us now. It’s something that will really change how we’re able to work with the dogs and make them more adoptable.

“Previous to having this space we only had a very limited outdoor fenced-in area, and it was essentially used for a small amount of exercise… Other than that, everything had to be walked on the leash around the property,” said Plourde.

Plourde said the fence was completed approximately two to three weeks ago and the first dog that was able to test the space out was Tank who has been at the shelter longer than the other dogs housed there.

“The biggest thing is the exercise, it’s large enough that dogs can get moving quite a bit and allows them to interact with their environment a bit more naturally. It also helps support our adoption process where members of the public who are interested in adopting can interact with the adoptable dog,” said Plourde.

He the shelter has seen a significant increase in the number of dogs taken in post-pandemic and with the economy being hard people are not able to afford dogs as much – especially larger breeds.

“We’ve been dealing with a significant increase in the amount of dogs, specifically dogs coming into shelter. And that’s present across North America coming out of the pandemic, where there was an excess of breeding during that time, because there was a high interest in taking in pets.

“And then we basically slammed right into a terrible economy. And so now, all these excess animals have nowhere to go, people can’t afford to keep them. So all shelters, all rescue organizations are seeing a massive increase. We all are also seeing significantly longer stays in the shelter.”

Middleton-Hope voiced his joy in being able to help the dogs at the shelter have the space needed.

“I’m just grateful that my granddaughter brought me up here to take dogs like Tank out. Because we’re dog lovers and we think that the dogs that are orphaned, that stay here for periods of time need that exercise, and as Skyler was saying, it makes them more adoptable.

“I’m very grateful to council and to administration for making this happen. And I think it’s going to have many years of use for the dogs and for Animal Services up here,” he said.

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