The CRD Animal Shelter in Saanich is the home away from home for pets that go missing on the South Island – and those pets can come in all shapes and sizes.
“We take in all of the stray or abandoned animals, all the way from Port Renfrew to the southern Gulf Islands and everything in between,” said Kathleen Davis, shelter co-ordinator with the CRD Animal Shelter, pointing out that Oak Bay, Victoria and Esquimalt are handled by Victoria Animal Control downtown.
On this day, the shelter, located on the Pat Bay Highway near Sayward Road, is home to 12 dogs, two ducks, a rooster, guinea pig and 14 cats.
“It’s not just dogs and cats, we deal with all domesticated animals, anything from a tarantula to a llama,” said Davis, who was on her way to pick up two lambs that had turned up in the parking lot of the Central Saanich Animal Hospital.
“We’ll hang on to them until we figure out where they belong and then the owners can come here to pick them up,” she said. “They stay here basically indefinitely, until they’re either claimed or sent to a rescue or adopted by a new family.”
Every municipality has its own guidelines on how long the shelter must hold onto an animal before putting it up for adoption, in Saanich it’s four days.
“We try to hold onto them for a little bit longer, hoping that an owner is going to come forward. If not, we spay/neuter vaccinate, microchip, deworm and deflea, do all that good stuff, and put them up for adoption after that,” said Davis.
The cost to adopt is $300 for a dog, $145 for a cat, $400 for a puppy and $200 for a kitten. “It covers all their vetting and everything and generally comes with a free licence as well,” she said.
The animals available for adoption are listed on the website www.crd.bc.ca/service/animals-pets/pets-for-adoption as well as on the CRD Animal Shelter Facebook page (or just google CRD animal shelter).
The strangest visitor to the shelter came after Davis received a report from someone who spotted a snake in a tree at the Cedar Hill Golf Course. “When they got out there, it was an eight-foot redtail boa hanging from a branch in a tree.”
Her main piece of advice for pet owners is to ensure your animal (or reptile) has identification.
“Most of the animals come into the shelter because they have no ID,” she said. “A lot of people are putting ID on their dogs so the dogs are going home quite quickly but it still hasn’t quite caught on with cats.”
She said it is getting better, with about 30 to 40 per cent of the cats she sees having a microchip, compared with only five per cent just a few years ago.
“I cannot say enough good things about microchipping your pet. It’s made all the difference, especially with cats,” said Davis, adding she has seen cats reunited with their owner after as long as five years because of a microchip.
Cats also play a role in one of the biggest changes Davis has seen over the decade she has worked at the shelter.
“Over the last year we have seen a huge decline in the number of unwanted cats,” said Davis, adding while a few more cats can be found up-island and in remote areas, they are snapped up at the Victoria shelter almost as fast as they come in. “I think it’s mostly due to our spay/neuter programs, and it’s unbelievable. The numbers are declining rapidly.”
While the job at the shelter is definitely one for an animal lover, Davis admits some of those animals are a bit harder to love than others.
“If we get a large tarantula, I have to say I’m not going to pick it up but I’m fine to take care of it. I’ve handled almost every kind of animal there is to be handled, so I’m OK with it – some of the other staff not so much.”