Saying a Good Goodbye: Practical Strategies to Help Families Through Foster Care Transitions

Parker holding a foster catBy: Parker Pothier

One reason many families are hesitant to try fostering is because they are worried about or afraid of the process of saying goodbye. Specifically, families often worry about how their kids will handle the goodbye and that they will never be able to “let them go.”

Though saying goodbye can be hard, I assure you, it is not impossible, and it doesn’t have to be as bad as you think! In fact, I have some great strategies that may help you and your kids prepare for the goodbyes and cope with the grief that comes after your foster pet has moved on to their new home.

These are only suggestions, you know your family and what will work for you—take what’s helpful, leave what’s not, and adapt as needed!

1. Start with the end

When you are thinking of fostering or taking in a new pet, remind everyone in the family, adults included, that this is a temporary visitor who is not going to live with you forever. From day 1, keep in mind that this is not your pet, this pet belongs to somebody else and is staying with you for now.

2. Tell the pet about what kind of home you want for them

Verbally saying things like this out loud gets your brain used to the idea that they’re leaving. “I can’t wait to find you a home with no other pets so you can be so comfy there as the king of the castle,” or “I hope they have lots of things that are high up for you to jump and climb on!” or “You are going to have the best life once we find you a home with another doggy or kitty for you to play with!” This can be great dinner table conversation!

3. Get your kids involved in the bio writing and photo taking

Get the kids to write or draw pictures of what the ideal family for your foster animal would be! Get their input! Their “job” is to find the cat or dog a great home, and part of that is dreaming and imagining what that might look like! “What colour of collar or bow tie should we put on the doggy for his adoption photo shoot?” “Do you think a nice photo of our foster dog in the park would help a new family see how friendly and pretty the dog is?” “Do you think our foster cat would get along well with other cats?” “Do you think our foster dog has lots of energy, or just a little bit of energy?” Then, you can send your kids’ input along with your own to the Zoe’s team when it comes time to write their bio!

4. As soon as there’s an application, prepare for goodbye

“Hey kids! We got an application to adopt our foster dog! That’s so exciting, and also kind of sad!” Even if the application doesn’t move forward, let them know an application was received and why it did or didn’t get approved. It’s an exciting thing that your pet is wanted, and also good exposure to the goodbye process, even if the inquirers aren’t a good fit. Have the kids make a list for the potential adopters of questions they want to make sure are asked, and maybe get them to help demo some tricks to the potential adopters when they come over for their meet-and-greet!

5. Tell the animal about their new home

This is the same concept as telling them what you’re going to look for. “Foster kitty, I think we found a great home for you! We got an application from a lovely couple who don’t have any kids and want a kitty to keep them company!” “Foster dog, I’m so excited this morning because today some really lovely people are going to come for a visit to see if they want to adopt you!”

Get the kids to draw pictures for the animal of what their new family will look like (the people, the type of dwelling, etc). You can even have the kids be the ones to break the good news to the animal! This will also help the kids learn who is getting the pet, and get comfortable with the idea of what the animal’s new stellar life is going to look like, and reassures them that the animal is going to a great home.

You can also encourage them to write goodbye cards or notes or draw goodbye pictures that you can send along with the adoptive family. They can also help choose a toy to send along with the animal to their new family, to help them feel comfortable.

6. Be realistic about how animals process transition, and don’t turn your animals into humans

Although animals do have thoughts and emotions, they don’t have human thoughts and emotions. They don’t wonder, to an existential level, where you went. They are very “in the moment” and in their new home they are likely thinking, “Oh this is different. This smells funny. All familiarity has escaped me. This is very different!” as opposed to thinking, “Where is my old family? Why didn’t they want me? I miss them so much!”

After a while, just like your foster animal got comfortable with you, they will get comfortable with their new family. You can reassure your kids that your pets do not have feelings that are the same as humans and are not cognitively processing this transition as a personal abandonment.

7. Have a “nesting” phase between foster animals

The nesting phase that happens between foster animals can be very intentional and therapeutic if you want it to be. As a family, you now get to engage in this fun routine where you clean all the bowls, wash the beds and blankets, and set your space up fresh! Kids may love to help set up the cat room that a new foster may hang out in for its first few days in your home, or they might like the opportunity to choose a new location for your new dog’s water bowls to go. You can even facilitate a special trip to one of Zoe’s supply locations to trade out the old bowls for new ones, pick out a new colour for your new foster’s collar, and get some fresh treats!

8. Remember: This goodbye is different than losing a family pet

Saying goodbye to a family pet you have had for many years can be extremely painful. When people imagine saying goodbye to a foster animal, many of them imagine how painful it was when they had to euthanize their family pet(s), or how much it hurt to re-home them after a major life transition. This is a short-term relationship with an animal that is not yours. Typically, you will have a foster pet for 2-6 months. In some cases, families have fosters for longer periods of time, but overall, it is a very short-term relationship. These goodbyes can be fun, too, because you got to help a pet find a forever home, and then you get to say hello to a new foster pet very shortly after!

9. Prepare them ahead of time for adoption day

Before and on adoption day, remind them what’s going to happen and encourage them to be part of it if they want to be. I love to make my foster “presentable” for their new family, so I give them a good brush and maybe even some dry shampoo and get them all ready. The kids might even like to take this time to write goodbye letters, share favourite stories and memories, and talk to the animal about hopes you have for their future.

If your kid doesn’t want to say goodbye or be part of adoption day, that’s okay. Don’t force them, and then afterwards, process it with them. “How did it feel to stay in your room when our foster cat was getting adopted? Did that work for you and feel okay? If it didn’t work for you and you feel like you regret that, is there anything you’d like to do differently next time so you can have the goodbye you wanted? Is there anything you wish you had for support that we haven’t been able to give you so that you feel like you can have a good goodbye? Do you want to say goodbye differently ahead of time, and then still make a plan to not be around when the new family picks them up? Would it work better for you if we made plans for you to be out with grandma or a friend while the new family picks the dog up?”

They may find that being removed from adoption day is genuinely helpful or fine for them, so process it and be open to following their lead. This is their grief journey that they will walk alongside for the rest of their lives in many ways. Kids will experience loss over and over and over as they grow – these foster care goodbyes are great practice for them to learn what works for them when they are grieving.

10. It’s okay to be sad

Loss is an inevitably sad time! Try to avoid telling them not to cry or be sad and let them feel what they feel. If they aren’t talking about it, ask them how they feel. You aren’t going to “make” them sad. If you ask how they feel and they start crying, they were already sad. They likely will become focused on the new foster pet when it arrives, and the sadness will get some redirection. Having photos of the foster animals you have had may help as well! I plan on one day printing out a picture of each of my fosters and having a dedicated space in my apartment for those photos. Maybe your kid needs to hang onto the dog’s old collar for a while, or maybe they would like to have a photo by their bed or in a special album.

11. Kids play through most things that bother them

No matter where you grew up, play was your first language. Kids learn and process things through play. Try to play imagination games with them, where maybe you pretend you’re adopting a new pet and someone in the game is the foster family and can play out that role too. Let the kid take the lead. Look for other ways in their play that they’re saying goodbye and take that as a sign they’re working through it. Did you see them playing with their cars, and someone got in a crash and died? Were they playing with their stuffed animals and then gave one to you and asked you to take care of it? There are so many themes in play that we miss that are actually related directly to experiences our kids are working through day-to-day. 

12. If they’re struggling, get help

If you have any concerns or worries about how your kids are processing grief, bring them to a play therapist who can support your kids in finding ways to process and explore their experiences. The play therapist can also help you as the parents learn how to have these conversations and help your kiddo at home as well. If you need referrals for mental health support for you or your kids, call 211, a nation-wide 24/7 help line that can connect people to low-cost mental health services.

Parker has been fostering cats since 2019 and has been a foster cat-dad with Zoe’s Animal Rescue since 2021. Along with fostering cats, Parker has a special passion for working with grieving children and teens. They have facilitated expressive arts-based grief support groups for kids and teens at Pilgrims Hospice Society since 2015. In addition to developing and leading grief workshops and webinars in settings such as conferences, non-profits, and schools, Parker frequents the Child and Youth Care program classrooms at MacEwan University, teaching students about issues related to working with grieving children, teens, and families. Parker is a Therapeutic Support Counsellor at One Tree Psychological and Therapeutic Services, a Community Resource Specialist with the Canadian Mental Health Association, and is a Sandplay Therapy Intern with the Canadian Association for Sandplay Therapy.

Further reading:
Why Foster?
Why I Rescue: A Foster Mom Forever

The blocked stops here!

Male cats are prone to being blocked which can be a life or death situation. A blocked cat could only take the matter of days before he passes away. So how do you prevent it from happening in the first place?
  • Grain free, no by product diet. Grains seems to be the worst offender of blocked cats as it takes away moisture. In fact if you can do a wet food only diet (that is grain free, no by products) that would be best or at least supplement it into your cats diet.
  • Like people if they don’t use the washroom enough it can cause UTI’s which can lead to further issues. Make sure that there are equal number of litter boxes to cats plus one extra around the house and that it is cleaned enough to their liking so they use it regularly.
  • Overweight cats can be prone to having these issues as well. So it is very important to make sure your cats are at a healthy weight. Some cats should not be free fed as they tend to not know when enough is enough and will eat way more then they should so regulated diets are a must for them.
  • Fresh water or water fountains are extremely important. Cats do not drink enough water mostly due to in the wild cats get their water from their prey so on a dry food diet only they don’t ever get enough water. By adding the water fountain it promotes cats to drink more, or by having fresh water a cat will be more inclined to drink. You could even put a little bit of water in the dry food to help give your cat more water intake.

What are the signs of a blocked cat?

  • Straining to urinate.
  • Peeing more frequently.
  • Blood in the urine.
  • Peeing in places that is not the litter box.
  • Crying out in pain while peeing.

It is extremely important that if you see the signs to get your cat to a vet immediately. If money is tight contact various vets to see what their pricing is and if they are willing to do payment plans. But as always if you generally don’t have thousands of dollars to use for vetting, please get  pet insurance so you never have to deal with the huge amount of stress of not having the money to make your best friend feel better.

A new adoption, what to expect in the first month.

Did you know that first month is the hardest for any newly adopted animal?

Some things you can possibly expect to deal with the first month:

  • Separation anxiety: It is very common especially more so with dogs/puppies but can happen in cats.
  • House training/litter box issues: Dogs/puppies have to relearn a new routine which can be different than what they are used to. It can also take awhile for the new owner to tell the telltale signs of them having to pee. For cats, some like certain litter or litter box styles, and placement is equally important. It is actually a good idea to see if you can take some used litter from the foster home to place into the new litter box. Cats are all about the smell so by placing the litter in the new litter box the cat will know that that is the place they should go in.
  • Aggression/fear of resident pets: Proper introductions is very important not just for dogs but for cats too. Just because your cat or dog had a previous friend it doesn’t mean this new pet will become their instant best friend. Like people, not everyone gets along or sometimes it takes quite awhile to adjust. This is why proper slow introductions are important for cats, it can take months for cats to become friends or at least put up with each other so expect to take at least a week possibly more for a cat/kitten to be in a sanctuary room.
  • Runners: The first week has the highest chance of pets escaping, dogs especially that is why some suggest not taking them for a walk until after the first week or have two leashes on the dog a harness and a leash just in case the dog slips one you will still have the second.
  • Shyness: Let’s face it, it’s scary to go to any new place but when you add in other pets, different people, and a busy household it can be very overwhelming. So expect at least two weeks to be best able to assess their personality.
  • Retraining: Even if a dog or cat is said to be perfect everyone’s idea of perfect can be different. Some people are ok with a dog on the couch while others not so much likewise with a cat on the table. So expect to have to train the new animal to have to learn the new house rules.
  • Unsure/scared/aggressive to the kids: Even if a foster home has kids, like resident pets, everyone is different. Some kids can be cat/dog savvy and know body language really well and know not to push an animal too far or be quieter in the home while others not so much. So especially for the first week, you want your kids to only be around the new pet under supervision as well make an effort to teach them how to be gentle and to understand warning cues. 

It’s also very important to set up your new puppy or kitten for success. So don’t let them get away with something you won’t find as cute when they are much older. Even kittens can be trained, some people thinks cats can’t be but they know that they can easily train us to please them, that’s how smart they are.

It will take at least a month for any new animal to settle into a household sometimes even more. Set them up for success by researching as much as possible beforehand in regards to training, and be honest with what exactly you are looking for, what you can handle medically/behaviorally, and if your resident pet(s) even want a new friend. Don’t get a pet just because it’s cute as it is a 10-20 year commitment that requires a lot of work and training to ensure they become a great part of the family. If you aren’t sure of any allergies in the family, bring the entire family to a friend’s or family members place to spend quite a bit of time with their dogs/cats to assess any allergies before adopting. Getting a new family member can be the best thing you ever do but it’s best to not have expectations that just aren’t fair for any new animal to live up to so quickly. 

Home-made Environmental Enrichment for the Indoor Kitty

by Crisia Tabacaru

As a loving cat parent, no doubt you’re already providing food, water and a warm home for your feline friend, but, just like you need more than the necessities to keep you at your best, your kitties will be happier and healthier if you understand their instincts, behaviours, and what will make them feel safe and content.

Let’s look at it from a biological perspective: Cats come from wild species that are both predators and prey, and many of their instinctive behaviours stem from this history. For instance, you’ve likely noticed that your kitties like to be high up, which helps them to both observe and feel safe. Providing such spaces in your home means that you’ll have a happier, less aggressive kitty, with fewer behavioural issues in general. For multiple cat households, increased vertical space will also help with stress related to territorial issues.

Many cat parents meet these needs with store-bought cat trees, hammocks or cat walks. There is nothing wrong with purchasing a cat tree, but a home-made one can be a very fulfilling project for both you and your kitty, not to mention a money-saver. In fact, one of our Zoe’s adopters built one for their kitty Neelix (Zoe’s alum, formerly Tator) and he loves his new cat tree!

This is one of my favourites. The instructions are very clear and it won’t cramp your style either. Seriously, check out those gorgeous branches!


Image courtesy of By Brittany Goldwyn


You can also take the scratching post approach and provide a climbing workout like this easy-to-follow project. Another way to give your cat observation powers is to provide cat shelves like this crafty cat owner did. The only limit is your imagination! (And maybe your handiness with tools…)

The next need to consider is mental stimulation and engagement. Boredom from a lack of environmental enrichment is often accompanied by stress and “bad” behaviours like urine marking and aggression. Increasing complexity in their environment is a way to engage cats and provide much needed mental stimulation. One way to do this is to create physical structures with attached toys and other complexities for them to play with, sleep on, scratch, and explore. This one uses readily available Ikea furniture and is attractive to boot.

Image courtesy of By Brittany Goldwyn

Another way is to provide a challenge in the form of toy or treat puzzles like these. Heck, have fun with it and make them a climbing wall!

Get inspired by these DIYs and let your imagination run wild!

Bonus: Geeky DIY cat projects

These projects are just so deliciously geeky, that I couldn’t resist!

Your Library Resource


There are just some books that you should have in your library whether you have cats or dogs or both. The following is a list of books that have great resources and can help you with behavioral issues, training and as well what to expect when adopting a new member of the family. Now it’s not every book you should have in your library as there are just too many great books out there to list them all, but it’s just a few you should consider reading. Yes some books are similar so ultimately it’s your choice what you choose.

Cat books:

Books by Author Amy Shojai are wonderful and easy to read.

  • Complete kitten care – a must read for people adopting kittens.
  • CAT FACTS: THE PET PARENTS A-to-Z HOME CARE ENCYCLOPEDIA -a book to help understand health issues.
  • Complete care for your aging cat -a go-to book for anyone with a senior cat, it gives extra information on how to help your senior cat live a long healthy life.
  • ComPETability: Solving Behavior Problems In Your Multi-Cat Household – a great book to have if your cats are not getting along.
  • ComPETability: Solving Behavior Problems In Your Cat-Dog Household – dogs and cats, let’s face it they don’t always love each. This book can help!
  • PETIQUETTE: SOLVING BEHAVIOR PROBLEMS IN YOUR MULTI-PET HOUSEHOLD -A great book if you have multi pets to help you have a peaceful home.

Books by Pam Johnson Bennet are also great, it has a bit of sense of humor and it more geared towards helping you understand more about cats and their behavior.

  • Think like a cat – Ever wanted to know more about why your cat does certain things or just more information on cats in general? This book has a ton of information that can help you understand more why your furry friend does what it does.
  • Cat vs Cat – A fantastic book to help cats get along peacefully in a home and more information on introductions to help them get off on the right foot.
  • Starting from Scratch: How to Correct Behavior Problems in Your Adult Cat -Does your cat have some behavioral issues that you are struggling to stop? This book has a lot of information that can help you do it, from litter box aversion to cat aggression and everything in between!
  • CatWise: America’s Favorite Cat Expert Answers Your Cat Behavior Questions – Have questions on cats? This book has loads of questions that was answered by a cat behaviorist.

Dog books:

  • The Other End of the Leash: Why We Do What We Do Around Dogs by Patricia McConnell Ph.D. – a great resource to understand why your behavior can affect your dog! A must have book!
  • Complete puppy care by Amy Shojai -a book that has all things puppy and is perfect for the first time puppy owner.
  • The power of positive training by Pat Miller- want a comprehensive book on positive reinforcement training? this is the book for you! complete with a diary to track your progress.
  • It’s me or the dog: how to have a perfect pet by Victoria Stillwell -this book is extremely easy to understand and has photos to help guide you. Even kids would love this book and can help with training.
  • Inside of a dog: what dogs see, smell and know by Alexandra Horowitz -what to know more about why a dog does certain things? This book can explain a dog’s inner mind.
  • The Cautious Canine: How to Help Dogs Conquer Their Fears by Patricia McConnell Ph.D – A fantastic book to have if you have a fearful dog.
  • Don’t Shoot the Dog!: The New Art of Teaching and Training by Karen Pryor -A MUST HAVE book!
  • Before & After Getting Your Puppy Hardcover by Dr. Ian Dunbar -The perfect book for when you are getting a puppy.
  • ComPETability: Solving Behavior Problems In Your Multi-Dog Household by Amy Shojai – A book to help your dogs get along.
  • Complete care for your aging dog by Amy Shojai -A great book for your senior dog to help make his golden years comfy.

We hope this list of books can help you with training and help you when you are dealing with behavioral issues so you can enjoy the experience of having a pet.

Best friends 4 Life!

chichol1There are many reasons why it’s a great idea to adopt a bonded pair or get two kittens instead of one. But here are just some of the reasons:
-A bonded pair you know will get along, you won’t have to do introductions later on if you wanted two anyway. Not all dogs/cats will become instant friends or friends at all. With a bonded pair you know they are compatible.
-Separation anxiety is quite common, especially with animals who are used to having other pets around. So unless you are home often, having a buddy can help prevent the destruction and phone calls about barking dogs.
-Dogs and cats are social creatures, many will not do good as a single pet. This is also true for kittens who can become very lonely and even scared on their own.
-Kittens will learn from each other, not only to use the litter box but also bite inhibition and how to play nice.
-Kittens will have each other to play which greatly lessens the chance of play aggression especially towards adult cats who are not playful.
-Bonded pair of dogs will help tire each other out so less walks/play time needed.
-You save two lives instead of one!
-The cost isn’t that much more to get two! Even for extra food, toys, litter boxes, scratching post. The adoption fee for bonded pairs is $300 for dogs (yes that’s right folks, dogs are two for the price of one!), $200 for cats and $250 for kittens! This, of course, includes the spay/neuter, up to 2nd set of shots, microchip and deworm!
-Twice the fun, love and cuddles!

Now that you are thinking about adopting a bonded pair, we will let you know we have many bonded pairs:

for dogs we have:
Chi Chi and Cholo
Sam and Samantha
Vincent Vega and Cory Flower

for cats we have:
George Weasley and Miss Blue
Leonardo Dicatrio and Don Drapurr
Hopper and Petrie

We do have many kittens in care and always highly recommend adopting a pair if you don’t have another young adult cat who is playful. Kittens are used to being around another feline so separation anxiety is extremely common for them.

Lost & Found

What to do if you lost or found an animal.


If you lost your pet:
For cat’s put out there uncleaned litter box on the front doorstep.
-If your cat is fixed and is an indoor only cat, unless frightened off they will stay nearby. Check your neighbor’s yards, under decks/porches and bushes.
-Put up posters all around the area, and nearby vet clinics.
-Talk with your neighbors.
-Post on pet lynx/Kijiji/facebook lost pets pages.
-Contact various rescues to see if they recently got a stray like that.
-Keep checking Kijiji and check your local humane society/ACCC.
-If you are offering a reward, if someone contacts you saying to pay up or your pet will die it is a SCAM, and sadly a very common one. They do not have your animal, they just want the money. Unless you see the animal in person and confirm it yourself, do not give them money.

If you found an animal:
-Please, please bring them to the ACCC. It is the best place for them to find their home who is looking for them. Not everyone has the internet to check sites like this but can easily go into the ACCC to find them. It is right next to the EHS. Please understand that the animal with not be euthanized unless there is a severe medical or severe behavioral issue that would make the animal too dangerous to be adopted out. If no one claims them most of the time, once they go to the EHS, they will find different placements for them in rescues or in barn homes if they are not doing well at the EHS or have behavioral/medical issues that can be managed easier in a foster type setting or barn home.
-By law, you are not allowed to keep a stray, or give them away. You can bring them to the ACCC and ask to be put under special consideration if no one comes claims the animal you can adopt them once the mandatory time at the ACCC is over.
-You can get them checked at the vet for a microchip and can even leave them there as many times the vet staff will bring them to the ACCC.
-You can post up found posters and ads on kijiji/pet lynx/various lost and found fb pages as well even to just put that this animal is at the ACCC.
-Do not judge. Indoor-only pets generally have no idea how to take care of themselves on their own, usually, they are dirty, even matted, some can even have mange as well and can be extremely skinny.

How to prevent losing your pet:
-Fix your pets. It is so important. It is by far the number one reason why animals get lost, even if they are indoor only they will try to escape. Contact various vets for pricing, as well the EHS has the PALS program for low-income households.
-Get your pets microchipped, even if they are indoor only. It is the best way to get your pet back. Don’t forget to keep the info up to date.
-Know when thunderstorms and fireworks are going to happen. Pets, especially dogs, can get very frightened and will escape the yard. Keep them inside, in a covered crate/kennel with a radio going on, preferably in a place that has no windows. Do not take your dogs out to see fireworks unless you are 100% certain they will not escape.
-Dogs for the first week or even month have the highest chance of trying to escape during a walk. You can do umbilical training (leash tied around your waist) so they get used to you. You can burn off energy by playing in the backyard/house and training. Find no slip leashes/harnesses and if need be use a double leash technique, this way if your dog slips one leash you do have a backup leash to keep control over your dog.
-Cat fencing, cat enclosure, and even a harness can help your kitty stay put. A harness lets your kitty explore while not escaping. It’s not safe to let your cat roam but they can still enjoy life outside in a secure yard with cat fencing, cat enclosure or on a harness.
-Get locks put on your fence. This will prevent anyone from opening the gate to either steal them or to let them out.

Also check out this awesome resource as well


Edmonton ACCC – FAQ #1 (The Basics)



I had a great time during my tour of the Edmonton Animal Care and Control Centre in January 2016. A large part of that tour, however, was to get answers to a lot of the questions I had about them. Before we start I have to thanks fellow Zoe’s volunteer Tammy as well as the entire staff of the ACCC for giving this opportunity to fight fables with facts. (Yes, that’s my new motto…) 

What is the capacity of the ACCC?

Currently they can hold 116 cats and 50 dogs. However, they can increase this capacity in the event of a sudden influx of animals (e.g. a hoarding situation).

Is the ACCC on social media?

The ACCC currently has a website and they just launched their Facebook page in January 2016 –  The Facebook page helps coordinate much more closely with animal rescue and lost pet groups and they post new intakes once a day.

What process does an animal go through when they are brought to the ACCC?

  • The animal’s picture is taken
  • The animal gets a full physical examination by a registered veterinary technologist (including an ID check)
  • Aggressive animals get a full visual check
  • The staff treat and medicate the animal as necessary, as directed by the in house veterinarian
  • The animal is transferred to a kennel
    1. Dogs get a clean bed and blanket, food, water, and at least one new toy a day
    2. Cats get a clean bed and litter, food, water, and at least one new toy a day
    3. NOTE – all of these kennels are large. In the case of the dog kennels, often very large (2 rooms with connecting door)
  • The animal receives daily health checks or more often if needed
  • The animal receives daily sessions in the outdoor run, treadmill, or enrichment room
  • Multiple behavioral assessments are performed during their stay (daily or more often)
  • The ACCC staff searches extensively for owner
  • If the animal’s owner is found, they are notified

How does ACCC search for the owners of lost pets?

The search for an animal’s owner is very extensive. It includes:

  • Visible ID tags
  • Microchip information
  • Tattoos – they will call multiple vets for information
  • Public records search
  • PetLynx
  • Kijiji
  • Facebook lost animal groups – some staff may also post there
  • If the animal has been given to another owner, they will follow that trail of owners

How long will an animal normally stay at the ACCC?

Animals with an ID stay 10 days. Animals without ID stay for 3 days.

What happens when the animal’s stay is up?

  • Animals that meet the EHS behavioral criteria are transferred there for adoption.
  • Animals that do not meet the EHS behavioral criteria are transferred to rescues wherever possible. The ACCC networks with several rescues to get them fostered and eventually adopted.
  • Animals with extreme aggression that constitute a danger to people or other animals are euthanized.
  • Feral cats – the ACCC works with several rescues to provide barn cats.
  • NOTE: Animals are not euthanized for lack of space – the ACCC has reserve kennels available. For example, they can subdivide a large dog kennel into two smaller ones. (During my visit I got the strong impression that euthanasia is only used as a last resort.)

What Advice can the ACCC give to pet owners?

  • Keep your pets inside whenever possible.
  • Keep your pet’s license tag visible.
  • Have your pet microchipped.
  • Always keep your pet’s license or microchip information up to date.
  • Be a responsible pet owner.
    • Don’t let them poop in the neighbor’s yard
    • Curb excessive barking
    • Don’t let your dog off-leash in on-leash areas.
    • Learn the proper etiquette and safety tips for off-leash areas
    • Learn what it takes to be a responsible pet owner

What is ACCC’s outlook for 2016?

2016 is looking like it will be a very challenging year. As the economy declines, the rate of abandoned pets increases so they are preparing for this.

Does ACCC help when an animal is in acute danger? (Stuck down a sewer or in a tree?)

Normally the Fire Department or emergency services should be called for this. ACCC will assist these departments, however.

Can ACCC help if a pet’s owner dies?

Yes. They will hold the animal for 10 days, and they will do everything they can to contact the person’s next of kin. If that fails they will transfer the animal to EHS or another rescue.

Do you take volunteer applications?

Not directly. However, people can volunteer for one of the rescues that ACCC works.

Do you take applications for animal fosters?

Not directly. However, ACCC works with several animal rescue organizations for its animal fostering so a person can sign up through them

Do you take owner surrenders?

No – this is done through the Edmonton Humane Society (EHS).

Do you have a Trap/Neuter/Return (TNR) program?

No, but several animal rescue societies including the EHS do TNR programs.

Do you do pet adoptions?

ACCC does not adopt animals directly. However, they transfer unclaimed animals to EHS and other rescues for adoption.

Do you only work with the Edmonton Humane Society (EHS)?

No, although they are the primary organization they work with, the ACCC works with other rescues as well. Examples include transferring animals to other rescues for fostering, and transferring feral cats to rescues that have “barn cat” programs.

Do you have any assistance for animal rescue organizations?

Yes. ACCC provides grants to animal rescue organizations, called ARF grants. These grants can assist with many needs of animal rescues such as events, veterinary costs, and so on.

Do you have a “Barn Cat” program for feral cats?

The ACCC works with a number of rescue organizations that have barn cat programs. These programs are an excellent alternative to euthanizing cats that cannot be adopted or socialized.

If I have a poor customer experience with the ACCC, what can I do?

  • When you call 311, try to get a ticket number for reference before they transfer you to ACCC.
  • Have a pen and paper handy (or use your smartphone).
  • Be sure to get the person’s name you are speaking to.
  • Try to record all of the details of the conversation as best as you can.
  • Stay as calm as possible during the conversation.
  • If you feel that you have grounds to make a complaint, call 311, provide the ticket number and details, and they will process your complaint.
  • NOTE: The above process also works for commendations as well.

This is the first of two FAQs on the ACCC. The second set of FAQs will answer some of the tougher questions, so stay tuned!

Are you buying from a puppy or kitten mill?



Puppy/kittens mills have become a multi million dollar industry at the expense of helpless animals who generally never get any vetting, live a life in a cage and are just breeding machines for their “owners”. Many of these dogs and cats have numerous injuries and behavioral issues due to poor care. But nowadays it’s hard to know where your puppy or kitten has come from. Buying off of kijiji/craigslist or the internet can put you at risk for buying a puppy mill puppy or kitten. So here is a list of things to be on the look out for while you hunt for your newest family member.

  • Be very weary in regards to “designer breeds” like pomsky, frenchton, puggles. Breeders will breed to promote their breed of choice and have thorough knowledge of the breed, ensure that there are no genetic defects and high standards on breeding. Breeding a “designer breed” is completely for pure profit and generally do not have high standards on what dogs they breed which can result in genetic problems for the puppies. Sadly many of these “designer breeds” come from puppy mills.
  • Always view the parents, or at least the mom and make sure to notice if she has recently had a litter. Some “owners” will show a female dog who doesn’t even look like she has had any puppies at all as they don’t want you to see the poor condition the real mom is in.
  • View the property, yes it can be impersonal but really what do they have to hide?
  • Never transfer any money to an account to purchase the pet.
  • Never purchase the pet outside the home, parking lots or gas stations are huge red flags for potential puppy/kitten mills.
  • No good breeder would sell puppies or kittens to a pet store where they have no control on who buys them.
  • Know the breed you are wanting! Do very thorough research to find the right fit for you and your lifestyle. Always know the breed, temperament and any markings/coloring’s that is standard. Sadly it is  common for people to sell brown tabbies as Bengals, long hairs as Maine Coons and grey cats as Russian Blue cats just to ask for a higher price.
  • Kittens mills do exist sadly, Ragdolls, Persians and Himalayan cats are extremely common for kitten mills so be aware when purchasing a kitten of these breeds.

ila3Good breeders:

  • Sells purebreds only from registered parents. 
  • Has a spay/neuter contract (Only those with the ideal standard and temperament of the breed could be bred to preserve the breed, pet quality puppies/kittens should be fixed to prevent unwanted genetic defects).
  • Does not allow you to re home your new pet.
  • Has thorough knowledge of the breed and is careful of who buys for them.
  • Only breeds one or two breeds, to them quality and giving individual attention is important.
  • Puppies/kittens have at least first sets of shots and dewormed. To these breeders it is important that they get vetting to ensure they stay healthy.

Bad breeders:

  • Sells mutts or kittens as designer breeds or emphasizes that such and such kitten/puppy has a certain breed in them in order to ask for more money.
  • Sells puppies/kittens as potential breeders, even if poor quality usually to ask for more money.
  • Only cares about profit, not the animal, so these puppies/kittens get no vetting at all and were probably never look at by a vet which could mean you are buying a sick animal.

Backyard breeders are common and you should also be very cautious with them. Most are just breeding for pure profit not for their breed of choice to ensure that the breed continues on. If you think you know of a puppy mill or kitten mill or see poor quality of life for some dogs/cats you go and see then please contact your local humane society and they will investigate. The only way to stop puppy mills and kitten mills is with knowledge and speaking up against them. With your help, they could be a thing of the past! Let’s put a stop to these inhumane breeding facilities, animals are much more then just dollar signs, they are family and should be treated with love and care from the moment they are born.


Inside Edmonton’s Animal Care and Control Centre

There’s no doubt that animal control suffers a bad, often villainous reputation in popular culture: imagine the cartoon stereotype of the obese, net-wielding dog catcher. This impression of animal control taints real-life interactions, and can be a barrier to accessing valuable services that get animals the help they need. Here, volunteer Dean cuts through the misinformation with a tour of Edmonton’s new Animal Care and Control (ACCC) facilities.


Trumper, the villainous animal warden from Shaun the Sheep.


My adventure at the Edmonton Animal Care and Control Centre (ACCC) actually began with a really bad day the week of Christmas 2015. I’d lost kitten a few months ago and have visited there several times, and I’d already seen several nasty rumors about the ACCC on FaceBook. This struck me as very odd, as the people spreading those rumours were also animal rescuers and I’d never had a bad experience during my dozen or so visits to the ACCC before.

I knew there was a serious problem, though, after I dropped off a female stray cat and her two kittens. The person I was helping broke off contact with me when she found out I’d taken them to the ACCC. Another person on FaceBook saw their pictures and told me that since the kittens were huddled in the back of the cage, they would be considered “unadoptable” and were probably already euthanized. And then another person I’d helped suddenly decided she’d rather privately adopt out her kittens, rather than take them to the ACCC.

I had questions that needed answers. Fortunately, the ACCC’s customer service manager was happy to oblige, and offered me and another Zoe’s volunteer a tour of the new facilities.

Not your stereotypical Pound

DogPound1The first thing I’ve always noticed at the ACCC is the lobby – the new place is inviting. Unlike the old “Edmonton Pound” with its one long counter, the lobby is divided into intake area and pickup areas with a winding wall partially separating the two. The seats are comfortable, the greenery is lush, and the flat screen TV shows some hilarious animal pictures as well as helpful advice. The kennels that were so prominent in the old facility are nowhere in view – they’ve been replaced with a row of transfer cages and bays for pet carriers. These were installed to prevent animals from escaping in the lobby area and the system works very well.

“Cats go in the front, dogs in the back.” I’m told. Being more of a cat person, that just seems right to me.

Tammy and I head to a conference room where some of the management and technical staff spend the next 90 minutes answering dozens of my questions about how the facility works.

Euthanasia rates? 16% of cats (down from 25% in 2013), and 2% for dogs (down from 6% in 2013)

Shelter capacity? 116 cats and 50 dogs, but this capacity can be increased in case of a sudden intake (e.g. a hoarding bust).

Does the ACCC take volunteers or fosters? No, but people can volunteer through the Edmonton Humane Society (EHS) and other rescue organizations.

Do you only work with EHS? No – the ACCC works with several other rescues as well, especially with animals that don’t meet the EHS adoptability criteria.

The list of questions goes on (so many that they will be presented as FAQs in upcoming posts). All of my questions are answered respectfully and professionally, and often enthusiastically.

And then it sinks in: these aren’t the typical bureaucratic shelter workers you hear about in horror stories on the Web. They’re 100% dedicated animal lovers, and they do all they can to reunite lost animals with their owners. They’ve seen more animal neglect and abuse than most of us would ever care to imagine.  Yet they keep at it day after day because they genuinely care about the animals in their facility.

Just before the interview ends and the actual tour begins, the staff drops a bit of a bombshell: the ACCC just launched its own FaceBook page. This was fantastic news to me – not only will the new page address a lot of those nasty rumors I’d read, but it gives them another way to reach out to the owners of lost pets. I’m smiling when we start the tour.

The Surgical Suite

The ACCC’s new surgical suite looks clean and really top-notch – on par with every well-equipped vet hospital I’ve ever seen and more. The suite is a primary vet care facility which can handle everything from emergency surgery and wound repair, emergency spay/neuter and orthopedic surgeries (such as setting broken legs and pelvic bones), to quill removal, frostbite injuries, and dental operations. Today its only animal resident is a friendly white-and tabby cat with frostbite injuries. She seems to be recovering nicely with the exception of the tips of her ears, which are missing. The staff has saved many animals with more severe injuries, though, such as dogs with multiple broken bones from being struck by cars. Before the suite went into operation, saving such animals would have been much more difficult, if not impossible.

Dog Kennels

AudreyHepburn-5The dog kennels are unexpected. The first thing I notice is the smell. It neither stinks nor smells like harsh cleaners, but simply smells a bit like “dog”. The lighting is subdued, there’s a whiff of aromatherapy in the air, and there’s relaxing music piping through hidden speakers. Dogs housed here get a clean bed and blanket, food, water, and at least one new toy a day. They also get lots of attention on a number of dog runs (indoor and outdoor), plus an indoor treadmill. It isn’t a dog spa, but it’s a far cry from the overcrowded, filthy shelters sometimes portrayed in the media, where animals have been known to have been warehoused in kennels without food, water or care. The ACCC’s kennels can even be subdivided by sliding panels to increase the shelter’s capacity in case of a sudden intake of animals.

I hear a few dogs, but I’m not surprised I don’t see any. It’s mid-January and most responsible pet owners are keeping pets indoors because of the sub-zero weather. When I checked their website an hour before the tour there were only 6 dogs at the facility (and that’s an encouraging thought!) Some of them are in the area reserved for aggressive dogs, and that’s understandably off-limits to the public.

Cat Kennels

miloThe cat kennels are just as clean and just as impressive. Like the dogs, cats get a clean bed and litter, food, water, and at least one new toy a day. Plus, they also have an “Enrichment Room” where they get lots of play daily. In fact, when we visit the Enrichment Room, there’s a staff member playing with a big black cat using a feather wand from a big wall cabinet full of toys. The cat (named Oscar) is having a lot of fun, and I’m surprised to find out he’s 17 years old.

I notice a couple of other differences with the cat areas.  The first difference saddens me – there are far more cats in this facility than dogs. Secondly, while there are more cats here, most of them have names. Those names come from their IDs, tattoos, and microchips, and from hours of searching by staff members. This is responsible pet ownership at its best, and I’ve no doubt that most these lost cats will soon be going home to their owners simply because they decided to microchip their pets.

Happy Endings

Our tour comes to an end and I’ve got more than enough information for a handful of posts, but I’m leaving with something more: hope. I’ve seen firsthand that the ACCC isn’t a “high-kill” shelter by any means, and the rumors I’ve read were just that and nothing more. In fact, without actively pursuing it, the ACCC is very close to meeting “No Kill” criteria.

And the bad day that started all of this? That’s all it was – they happen. But the next time I rescue animals (lost pets or otherwise), I know where to go, and I know they’ll be in good hands.