Giving Life with 4 Walls, a Roof and a Floor

By Trish Haryett and Lori Trudgeon

What’s a pup to do when it’s minus 20 outside and all that’s above is the moon and the stars and all that’s below is the cold, wet snow—well, find a hole and hope to live another day!

SCARS is a registered charity whose mission is to rescue and rehome unwanted and abandoned pets from rural communities that lack animal control and veterinary services. In addition, we provide residents with spay-neuter and pet shelters to improve the lives of owned animals.

Why our Walls 4 Winter program is needed

Dogs in rural Alberta communities often live outside. The intent is usually not neglect. Residents often adore their pets, but outdoor life for pets is a common practice. Winters are harsh and a pet shelter is literally the difference between life and death.

Dogs and cats generate most of their heat from their belly. Lying curled up in a shelter with a well-insulated floor and walls, surrounded by straw, will keep the animal alive.

Many people in rural communities cannot afford adequate shelters for their animals. Pets are forced to take refuge under decks, in holes or under abandoned structures—sadly, this often isn’t enough to survive. It is very common for animals to freeze, especially puppies and kittens. But it doesn’t have to be that way. SCARS can help.

What we offer

The Walls 4 Winter program provides fully insulated pet shelters to residents who participate in the our Spay-Neuter-Return program. Surgical sterilization of owned pets is the long-term solution to reducing the vast numbers of unwanted pets, while the shelters provide quality of life.

A lot of effort and love goes into every shelter and many people are involved in the process from design to delivery. The largest dog shelters are approximately 100 pounds each. There are three sizes for dogs as well as a version for cats. Each shelter is framed, insulated and painted.

How delivery works

Our volunteers deliver small numbers of shelters throughout the year. We also organize large deliveries each fall. A group of volunteers will take up to 50 shelters at a time and spend the day meeting with residents and their dogs, and setting up shelters.

Moe Duval of Duval Transport volunteers his time and provides trailers for our large deliveries. This is what he said about one of his experiences.

“I had the opportunity to participate in delivering free dog and cat houses. The SCARS volunteers knew what they were doing and often referred to residents and their pets by name. They knew which pet gave birth to which puppies and where they lived. They talked to the residents about their free spay/neuter program, dropped off houses for pets that have already participated and collected homeless pets. One of the homeless dogs had given birth to four beautiful little puppies a week earlier. They were laying on a sheet of plywood out in the open, curled up in a ball to stay warm. The experience left me feeling very emotional. I learned so much about SCARS and what they do to help homeless pets and assist pet owners. It’s truly awesome.”

The need is great

When we rescue a pet that has experienced frostbite we are reminded how important these shelters are to communities. Muskwa is a dog that suffered from severe frostbite before he came into our care last February. He was able to recover and was adopted. Sadly, he passed away during July from an autoimmune disorder but he enjoyed the time he spent with his new family.

The need for these shelters is great, but our volunteers are passionate and dedicated. We want a world where no pet has to go it alone in the cold.

So what’s a pup to do when it’s minus 30 outside and all it’s got are 4 walls, a roof, a floor and straw all around—why, curl-up warm and live to see another day!

(Note: this blog was selected by Canada Helps as one of their December 2017 Charity Spotlights. You can see an edited version on their website.)