Poor dogs get new beginnings

One of the dogs at the Vancouver SPCA. Photo by Jocelyn Gollner 

They have no homes. Many have endured abuse in their lives.They are living in shelters after being taken from the streets. The dogs at the BC SPCA have  been through it all. 

Each year, the BC SPCA takes in about 34,000 animals (roughly half of those  dogs) and does investigations on about 7000 cases of animal cruelty. 

Lorie Chortyk, General Manager of Community Relations of the BC SPCA, has been involved with the SPCA for over ten years and has been able to see these animals through trying times. 

“A lot of people will surrender their animals because of a lot of impulse shopping, where they buy dogs at pet stores and things like that. The animals look really cute in the window and they’re really given no education about how much responsibility a pet is,” Chortyk said. 

Chortyk with one of the dogs at the Vancouver SPCA. Photo by Jocelyn Gollner (below) 

"It's heartbreaking when someone come sin, they have a nine-year-old dog and they’ve had it since he was a puppy. And they say ‘Well, you know, it’s starting to cost us money so we don’t want it anymore’,” she said. “But there are not a lot of people looking for a nine-year-old dog who is going to  cost  a lot in vet bills, so we do our best to educate people about their responsibilities. It's a life-long commitment to that pet. It really is discouraging for us to see.” 

Many of the older dogs and dogs with certain disabilities take much longer to be adopted out, if they are adopted out at all, Chortyk said. Some harder to adopt animals are lucky  to be adopted by staff members who fall in love with them or by people in the public looking to give a very deserving dog a loving home. 

“There was actually a case in Cowichan [B.C.], and this dog had been just brutally tortured by its owner. I mean it was chained up and burned with a cigarette lighter, just beaten and emaciated, and just horrible. This women and her daughter came into the shelter and wanted to know which dog needed a home the most. That was the one that they wanted to adopt. They took this dog and this dog is just amazing. It is so healthy. Just seeing the pictures of this dog running around the yard playing and curled up on the bed and [being made] homemade meals every night. It’s just so great to see that transition.”

Chortyk said that there seems to be misconceptions about the type of animals that are in the BC SPCA. 

“I think that’s kind of a myth that if you go to a shelter you’re getting some sort of second hand animal or something. It’s really a stereotype that we try to overcome because these animals are there through no fault of their own,” she said. “It really bothers me that they get thought of as damaged, because they aren’t.”

The SPCA has many dogs that are looking for loving homes. Photo by Jocelyn Gollner (below)

“When animals come into our shelters, it’s because people have let them down. It’s not because they’ve done anything wrong.”

Vancouver has a large number of dog-lovers and dog-owners in the city.

There is a huge number of luxury dog boutiques and services in the city for people willing to spend enormous amounts of money on their pets.

“I think that particularly in urban centers a lot of us tend to think of pets kind of like our little surrogate children,” she said. “I mean one of the things that we do have concerns about a bit is putting on animals our feelings. Because not that we don’t appreciate that people love their pets like that, but dogs have very specific behavioral needs and behaviors, and when we impose what we think they’re thinking or what...I mean no dog wants to get dressed up. They really don’t.” 

“Also I think with that there is a danger that they become accessories. I mean we certainly see that in other countries where different breeds of dogs, small dogs, are breed specifically for fashion accessories. And then in six months that breed, say the Chihuahua, goes out of style and then you see animals being euthanized.Perfectly healthy animals being euthanized, when they aren’t the fashion accessory of the month. And then another breed, you know, breeders just start churning them out. I would hate for us in Canada to move in that direction,” Chortyk said. 

Although there are some horrible stories of animal cruelty and neglect, not all is bad. 

“With dogs, the situation has really improved dramatically. And apparently, it’s across Canada, that there is almost a shortage of dogs, which is a wonderful problem to have.”

It is the hope that all dogs who are at the SPCA will be adopted into loving homes. 

“It’s just amazing to see animals come in here and the only thing that they have experienced from humans is pain and torture. Their only experience with humans at all has been a bad experience. And they will come in and they are so trusting and so loving and they go to these wonderful homes. It’s just so wonderful that change from where they came from.” 

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