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Community Animal Services celebrating a successful 2023, looking ahead to a busy 2024

It was a paw-sitively fur-tastic 2023 for the critters and companions at the Lethbridge Animal Shelter. From fetching new events to unleashing equipment upgrades, it was a year full of tail-wagging adventures to support operations at Community Animal Services (CAS).

In July, CAS hosted the inaugural Rescue Fest at the shelter. The event addressed a combination of increased numbers of surrendered animals and lower adoption rates. Volunteers, donors and adopters were recruited for local rescue organizations.  

“The rescue organizations that participated really appreciated the opportunity to highlight the work they do,” says Skylar Plourde, Director of Services and Enforcement. “Sometimes it can be hard for organizations when they don’t have money for traditional advertising. They rely on social media, but the only people seeing their information are the people already following them.” Plourde expects Rescue Fest to be an annual initiative, with the 2024 version planned in late May or early June.

City Council approved a much-welcomed addition to the shelter in November. A 400-square-meter fenced dog run will provide exercise and mental stimulation for dogs that have been at the shelter long-term. The installation of the fence is expected to be completed in this spring.

“It’s an amazing opportunity to increase our ability to provide enrichment activities for the dogs we have in our care,” says Plourde. “It also provides a space for our staff to better work with them and provide some training… and those looking at adopting will have a better place to interact with the dogs.”

The safety of Enforcement Officers was also addressed in 2023 with the introduction of body armour. Community Animal Services has never experienced a ‘use of force’ incident. Plourde says the armour protects against worst-case scenarios.

“Our enforcement officers are dealing with a lot of the same clientele that police are dealing with on a day-to-day basis, but we don’t necessarily know the background of these people when we first engage with them.” Plourde also notes that the armor design aims not to be overbearing or intimidating.

To better illustrate just how busy 2023 was for CAS, you just have to look at their annual statistics:

  • 495 hours of proactive community patrols
  • 1,980 calls for service
  • 525 animals handled at the shelter
  • 206 adoptions
  • 685 people accessed the free pet food bank
  • 9,338 pet licenses issued

Looming large for 2024 is the continuation of the Animal Bylaw Review. The aim is to combine the existing Dog Control Bylaw with the Wild and Domestic Animal Regulation Bylaw into a single piece of legislation. Public engagement began at the Community Conversation in late 2023 and will continue with a public survey in the coming months. Community Animal Services will use the feedback from the public engagement, along with input from stakeholders and partner agencies, to draft the new Bylaw.

“What we’re looking for is ‘What are people talking about?’ Because if people don’t care, they’re not interested in talking about it, why are we putting all this focus in a new Bylaw if it’s something the public isn’t interested in?”

Plourde says early feedback indicates strong interest in cat regulations and the ability to keep backyard chickens. Community Animal Services expects to submit the draft Bylaw to Council for review by the end of September. You can learn more about the Bylaw project here.

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Dog with chew toy
Cat in a kennel
Cat with a cone
Animal Enforcement Officers in body armour

Members of the Animal Enforcement team showcase body armour introduced in 2023.

Animal Bylaw Review at Community Conversation

The Animal Bylaw Review information at the Winter 2023 Community Conversation.

Rescue Fest

The inaugural Rescue Fest held in July 2023.

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