Fifteen years ago in March, Dennise McIntyre was invited to the first Animal Rescue Committee of Slave Lake (ARC) meeting. It wasn’t called that yet. It was just a group of people who thought they should get together to discuss ways to help the Town of Slave Lake improve the pound and find homes for dogs.
At the meeting, the decision was made to establish a board to start a non-profit. People signed up for secretary, treasurer, and vice-chair. When it got to chair, no one put up their hand, so McIntyre did.
She says, “I had no idea, what we were getting ourselves into.”
Now, 15 years later she’s still the chair. Some of the other board members have changed through the years, but many are still on the board, volunteering, or fostering animals.
ARC started with McIntyre and another family fostering some dogs.
“It mushroomed from there,” says McIntyre.
In the last 15 years, ARC has adopted out well over 1,000 dogs, cats, and a few rabbits. It works closely with the town and M.D. of Lesser Slave River peace officers and animal control, and the local vet.
Now there’s only a few foster families, since most of the cats and dogs live at the ARC building by the airport.
There are currently 40 to 50 volunteers at ARC and a handful of foster homes.
During COVID-19, ARC isn’t accepting any new foster families.
Until the 2011 fire ARC didn’t rescue cats, but afterward there was a need. The building, which was finished in 2018, made it possible to help even more cats.
In the fall and around Christmas of 2019, there were upwards of 70 cats at ARC. Now, there are 40 cats and no dogs.
On May 4, one of the cats had a litter of kittens.
The animals come from close by and as far afield as Wabasca, Red Earth Creek, Hondo, Smith, and Fawcett.
Over the years, ARC has learned a lot, says McIntyre. It received support from other Alberta humane societies, local businesses, local government, and community members.
Unfortunately, this year due to COVID-19 the 15th annual dog walk at the end of May is postponed. The new date will be announced later. Planning is underway for the eighth Raise the Woof, which is a comedy night, supper, and silent auction in September. However, depending on the COVID situation this may also be postponed.
The biggest need for the summer is to finish landscaping the yard behind the ARC building and fence it off, so that volunteers have a space to let the dogs play.
Otherwise, ARC has most of what it needs to continue for the next while.
During COVID, there haven’t been as many new rescues added to the fold.
Earlier in the year, all the dogs Animal Rescue had were adopted, as were a decent number of cats.
The goal is to “keep things going the way things are going,” says McIntyre.
In the future, ARC would like to expand its educational programming. In a normal year, Grade 9 students from Roland Michener Secondary School volunteer as part of a class.
In the past, the library came and read to kids and cats.
Most summers the town puts on Summer Splash, which is a day camp for kids. These kids have come by ARC, as have seniors.
Expanding on these opportunities and adding dog training are some ideas for the future once COVID-19 has passed.
McIntyre hopes that Animal Rescue Committee will be in Slave Lake for a very long time to come. She hopes that the kids and teenagers who are volunteering now would continue to be involved in the future. Some might even become board members.