SPCAs, Humane Societies, Shelters, Rescues and Pounds

Taking a closer look at Alberta’s animal welfare scene

Over the past 20 years, the network of groups, organizations, and individuals working towards the collective goal of improving and protecting animal welfare in Alberta has grown substantially. To the public, the landscape can seem confusing, as scope and objectives of animal welfare efforts occasionally overlap.

Humane Society/SPCA

Generally speaking, humane societies and SPCAs or Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, are the largest animal welfare organizations operating in the province, but even within this category, there’s a spectrum related to size, operating budget, and services.

In Alberta, the biggest humane societies are in Edmonton (EHS) and Calgary (CHS). Each of these organizations operate as animal shelters, with animal hospitals to provide veterinary care to hundreds of animals under their care at any given time. These organizations also have well-defined adoption programs, barn cat programs, foster programs, low cost spay/neuter programs, public education programs, and additional services such as pet daycare, grooming facilities and behavioural training. They also offer animal protection services, which enforce Alberta’s Animal Protection Actwithin their respective municipalities. Organizations such as these also commonly have working relationships with municipal animal control departments.

Most humane societies will take all breeds and species of companion animals into their care.

Larger humane societies often operate as hubs within the province’s network of animal welfare organizations. Through agreements with rescues across the province, animals are transferred in and out of care, on a case by case basis, to ensure optimal access to care and re-homing.

The largest SPCA in the province is the Alberta SPCA. Unlike EHS and CHS, the Alberta SPCA focuses primarily on enforcement of the Animal Protection Act and public education, both of which are done at a provincial level. They do not have shelter facilities and work with rescues and humane societies to provide shelter for seized or unowned animals.

Many other organizations across the province incorporate “humane society” or “SPCA” into their trade names and, while they do offer some similar services to their larger counterparts, their scope of services and the facilities from which they operate are often much smaller.

Animal Control/Pound

Animal control services and pound facilities are typically run by counties, municipal districts, and municipalities. Like rescues, humane societies, and SPCAs, these services and facilities vary in size and scope. In larger cities like Edmonton, the Animal Care and Control Centre (ACCC) operates kennel facilities for lost and stray pets, as well as an animal hospital where veterinary care is provided for the animals under their care. ACCC also has peace officers who respond to public safety concerns as they relate to animals, while taking animals into their custody who are deemed lost or stray, as per prevailing bylaws. Smaller animal control operations often work with partner organizations and veterinarians to ensure the welfare of animals who are temporarily in their care.

The key distinction between animal control services and their rescue, humane society, and SPCA counterparts is that animal control protects people from animals, while their counterparts protect animals from people.

Rescue organization

The number of rescue organizations has grown considerably over the past 15 years. The reasons for this are many, but the most common theme is ease of entry—there is no formal regulatory oversight of rescue organizations, outside of required compliance with the Animal Protection Act.

Similar to humane societies and SCPAs, rescue organizations plot along a spectrum according to size and scope of their operations. Some are brick-and-mortar operations, while many are operated out of the home of a single organizer or a network of organizers’ homes. Some rescues choose to focus on rescuing a specific breed or type of companion or livestock animal.

Rescues who lack facilities for their operations often rely on foster networks to manage day-to-day care for the animals they take in. Medical care is typically provided by a local veterinarian, often at a discounted rate.

Satellite Adoption Centre

Satellite adoption centres are a partnership between a humane society or rescue organization and a pet store. The purpose of these partnerships is to discourage pet stores from relying on pet breeders to fill their inventory, opting instead to showcase and adopt homeless animals, in compliance with a partner organization’s adoption screening process and policies.

Source: Alberta Veterinary Medical Association