Lego, a Lab mix from the Dominican Republic is one of the Save Our Scruff dogs up for adoptions. (Save Our Scruff/Instagram)

Rescue dogs come to Canada in search of forever families

In their five years, Save Our Scruff has adopted out 1,700 dogs and counting

There were dozens of dogs in the back of the van travelling the 1,400 kilometres from Tennessee to the Greater Toronto Area — and one of them was a barker.

The trip last year was one of the bigger rescue missions that Save Our Scruff has embarked on, this one in collaboration with another agency in the same line of work. The charities are part of a growing grassroots effort to bring dogs to Canada from places as far flung as Mexico, El Salvador and Egypt, where overpopulation is a far bigger issue.

Contrast that with Canada’s urban centres, where we’re “winning the war on dog overpopulation,” according to one Toronto city official.

Volunteers with the two groups in Tennessee stacked the crates in the back of the cube van and began the long drive home. Before that, they spent two days working on the farm where the dogs had been living.

Aside from the lone yappy passenger, the pups didn’t make too much fuss during the trip home, said Jenna Bye, executive director of Save Our Scruff. Because it was cool outside, the dogs were comfortable and less prone to complaining. In the summertime, it takes more planning and effort to keep the dogs from overheating.

But arranging such treks is far from a walk in the dog park.

“We just had over 100 dogs in care at the end of the summer,” said Bye. ”That’s 100 dogs that have to be picked up, from generally the airport; that’s 100 dogs that have to go to the vet; 100 supply packages that we have to create and deliver.”

In their five years, Save Our Scruff has adopted out 1,700 dogs and counting, and Bye estimates that more than half are from outside of Canada. Twenty more dogs are currently listed on their website as available for adoption.

“Sometimes I feel like I’m running a logistics company,” she said.

Larger organizations such as the Humane Society International have been at it for far longer — Save Our Scruff took in its first dogs in 2014 — but Bye said she’s seen the number of independent groups like hers climb over the past few years.

The underlying reason for the popularity of such rescues is multi-pronged, beginning with a smaller supply of stray dogs in Canada, said Mary Lou Leiher, a program manager with Toronto Animal Services.

“I think it was about 2005 when it struck me that we were winning the war on dog overpopulation,” she said, noting that more dogs are being spayed, neutered and microchipped, so stray dogs can’t multiply and lost dogs are more often returned home.

This reduction in supply of homeless dogs has coupled with an increased demand for pups, Leiher said.

“Dog ownership is trending,” she noted.

Good numbers on dog populations are hard to find — comparatively few people register their dogs with their cities and pay the accompanying fee, Leiher said, so while those figures are steadily climbing in cities such as Toronto, they only represent a fraction of the actual population.

Nor does the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, which is tasked with regulating the importation of animals into Canada, track the number of dogs brought into the country, it said.

But research conducted by Kynetic on behalf of the Canadian Animal Health Institute suggests that in 2018, there were 8.2 million pet dogs in Canada — up from 7.6 million two years earlier. And for the first time since the industry association began conducting the research, the number of dogs was nearly on par with cats.

Leiher said she’s seen the number of rescue agencies bringing dogs from far afield climb in recent years.

In fact, she said, Toronto Animal Services has partnered with some of those organizations, transferring dogs over to them to be adopted out instead of keeping them in city kennels.

Last year, 273 dogs were adopted out and 221 were transferred to another dog rescue.

The independent agencies present some benefits over traditional shelters, Leiher said — they can be cared for by individuals in their homes, and the charities are generally very good at marketing.

At Save Our Scruff, each dog has an online profile that reads something like a dating profile — equal parts enticing and informative.

For instance, meet Nutri: a two-year-old rat terrier mix from Mexico who’s looking for his happily ever after.

“Do you like fairy tales? Nutri is ready to be your prince charming,” it reads. “When he doesn’t have the zoomies, you can find him dozing like sleeping beauty.”

But social media is what really grabs potential adopters’ attention, Bye said. If people follow their Instagram or Facebook pages, the images of adorable dogs in need of homes are delivered straight to them — they don’t need to seek the information out.

It also works for attracting volunteers, she said, noting her organization is 98 per cent volunteer-run.

For instance, Bye said many of the dogs are flown in with vacationers signing up as “flight parents” ahead of their trips to certain countries.

Save Our Scruff — with its partners abroad — will arrange the rest: the dog’s transportation to the airport in its home country and from the airport in Toronto, along with a foster family for the animal to stay with in Canada.

“That’s where the dogs thrive,” said Bye. “It sets them up for a life that they can expect long-term, and gives them a chance to show us the kind of dogs that they’re going to be long-term.”

ALSO READ: Langley shelter aims to find homes for every animal by Christmas

ALSO READ: Dog needs surgery, tests after being found ‘immobilized, terrified’ in B.C.’s Peace region

Nicole Thompson, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Comments are closed

Just Posted

Interior Health will not expand Police and Crisis Team

Southeast Division Chief Superintendent Brad Haugli asked IH to expand the program

Haze over Okanagan and Shuswap skies may have drifted from Siberia

Few active wildifres so far this summer in B.C.

Guerrilla Gigs replacing Streetfest this summer in Revelstoke

Buy one of 30 tickets the Sunday before the Wednesday show

UPDATE: Trans-Canada Highway open to single-lane traffic west of Revelstoke due to flooding

The highway between Revelstoke and Golden is also open again

Mt. Revelstoke summit and back country closed to dogs permanently

Dogs allowed on-leash only in some other areas

UPDATE: Military reservist facing 22 charges after allegedly ramming gates at Rideau Hall

The man, who police have not yet officially identified, will be charged with multiple offences

Intent of killing at centre of Surrey man’s Okanagan murder trial

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Allison Beames is anticipated to return with her decision in August

Kelowna neighbourhood pond dries up again

The RDCO filled up the pond on Hall Road but it’s drying up again

Penticton RCMP seek help locating missing woman

25-year-old Iesha Blomquist was reported missing to Penticton RCMP on June 30

Car smashes into Kelowna dollar store

The vehicle went through the front window of the store just off Highway 97 North

Majority of residents in support of alcohol in outdoor spaces: City of Penticton

City council will vote on whether to continue allowing public consumption, on Tuesday, July 7

Princeton RCMP arrest suspects in violent Salmon Arm home invasion

Two men who allegedly staged a violent home invasion in Salmon Arm… Continue reading

LETTER: Questions raised about Summerland solar project

Site of proposed project has been considered for previous initiatives

Alberta health minister orders review into response after noose found in hospital in 2016

A piece of rope tied into a noose was found taped to the door of an operating room at the Grande Prairie Hospital in 2016

Most Read