The New Westminster animal shelter is overrun with furry friends in need of homes — and it’s hoping you can help.
The Queensborough-based shelter currently has 34 animals in its care — which, as animal services officer Margie Fox notes, is a very large number for a small city. Plus, it has a growing waitlist from people who’ve asked to surrender their animals and who are just waiting for space: 12 cats, 11 dogs, one bird, and 10 rabbits and guinea pigs.
“The number of animals coming in is just greater than the number of animals going out, and certainly the pace is faster,” she said. “It is a problem that, sadly, is not just ours. We are seeing it in a lot of the Lower Mainland shelters.”
Fox said shelters are seeing some fallout from the earlier part of the pandemic, when more people were home and more people decided to get pets. Over that time, she said, many people looking to rehome pets were able to do so without relying on the shelter system — but now, fewer folks are at home to look after pets, and fewer homes seem to be available.
Of particular concern to the local shelter are the hard-to-house small animals: rabbits and guinea pigs.
“They just don’t get adopted quickly,” Fox said, noting the shelter has a pair of rabbits, Cedric and Cecilia, who’ve been there for a couple of years.
It has four guinea pigs in search of homes, as well as a whopping 13 rabbits, six of which are in foster care — and four of those are expected back any day now. Most of those were strays or abandoned rabbits that hadn’t been spayed or neutered.
Non-spayed/non-neutered pets have also caused a boom in the cat population, as the shelter is now looking for homes for 10 cats (four of which are in foster care).
“Cat adoptions haven’t been too bad, but we are seeing a lot of kittens,” Fox said, noting it’s been working with a number of cat owners who’ve found themselves overwhelmed with “accidental litters” to ensure adult cats are spayed or neutered.
So what can you do to help?
Here's how you can help the New Westminster animal shelter
Adopt an animal from the shelter
If you’re in a position to do so and you’re looking for a pet, then don’t look to breeders or to buy-and-sell sites like Craigslist or Kijiji – adopt instead.
The need for homes is especially acute for rabbits, who take up a lot of the shelter’s resources.
You can find a current listing of all adoptable pets at the shelter's Petfinder site.
Foster an animal waiting for a home
If adopting a full-time pet is feasible, financially or otherwise, consider fostering; the shelter would particularly appreciate some loving fosters for its rabbits and guinea pigs. You can find a foster application online.
Volunteer at the New Westminster shelter
The shelter isn’t currently accepting new volunteers, but it’s expecting to be doing so soon; if you want to donate your time, keep an eye on the shelter’s website and social channels for details.
Donate money or pet care items
Financial donations are always appreciated, and money will go towards helping high-needs animals – such as June, a dog found as a stray in an alley who came in “deplorable” condition with eye issues, dental problems and chronic skin issues. Thanks to donations, she’s been able to get dental care, and she’s had surgery to remove both eyes. You can make donations online.
The shelter also welcomes pet food and care items: canned cat and dog food, catnip, cat litter, toys (especially extremely durable dog toys), and bunny and guinea pig toys.
“The support of the community is so helpful,” Fox said.
Share on social media and spread the word
If you can’t take in an animal and you aren’t in a position to make a donation, you can still help out — by sharing the shelter’s posts on social media and helping to get the word out.
Tell your friends and family members about the need and share stories and posts far and wide to help get the word out.