Yukon’s housing crisis is also being felt by pets

Cheryl McGrath says she just couldn’t keep up anymore.

For the past decade, she has run the Yukon Animal Rescue Network (YARN) from her home in Watson Lake. She has taken in hundreds of dogs over the years and found them new homes in the Yukon and elsewhere.

But this month, she had to stop taking in new animals.

“It’s hard for me to let go of that and stop accepting animals. I’ve never had to stop taking before in the 10 years I’ve saved, I’ve just accepted whatever happened to me.”

McGrath runs YARN as a labor of love; she also works another full-time job to pay the bills.

“Every area of ​​my life is behind. And you know, I have to do something.”

McGrath has always relied on finding foster homes for some of the dogs she cares for, until they can be adopted. It was never too difficult in the past, but now it is.

And if she can’t find foster homes, then “saving” can become just hoarding, she says.

Cheryl McGrath, who runs the Yukon Animal Rescue Network (YARN) in Watson Lake, with a litter of new puppies. (Submitted by Cheryl McGrath)

“If they don’t come out the other side of that revolving door, you have to keep them out, otherwise they’ll block the door,” she said.

McGrath says Yukon’s housing crisis is “definitely a factor,” with many landlords having “no pets” policies.

“A lot of people are living in their vehicle rather than giving up their pets, or whatever housing situation they can create, because there’s no housing, you know?” said McGrath.

“Housing is definitely a big factor in whether people can adopt or not.”

The “very complete” Whitehorse shelter

Samantha Salter, who sits on the board of the Whitehorse Humane Society, says the city’s shelter is also “very full right now”.

She says the shelter has adopted many animals during the pandemic, but lately the adoption rate has returned to pre-pandemic levels.

“It seems like for a while we couldn’t get the animals out fast enough,” she said.

Now it’s slowing down, as the animals continue to enter the shelter. Salter says the Humane Society does not have statistics on how many animals may have been abandoned due to housing or income issues, but said there is generally a connection.

The Yukon Humane Society shelter in Whitehorse. It’s “very busy right now,” according to a Humane Society board member. (Paul Tukker/CBC)

“We don’t always have a full history. So, for example, we can have animals dropped off by regulation and all we get is kind of, their owners have been kicked out. So we don’t necessarily know all the reasons why. why,” she said. said.

“But the shelter staff know that many of those reasons are related to income, to safe housing. Sometimes it’s hard to tell which came first.”

Salter said more animals mean additional pressure on the Humane Society, which is already under-resourced and under-staffed. She says other animal welfare organizations face similar challenges.

Last year, Kona’s Coalition, a nonprofit animal welfare group in Whitehorse that helped find homes for pets, closed its doors. And this week, an organization called Yukon Small Animal Rescue and Advocacy announced on social media that it would no longer take animals, citing an “extreme increase in bills” as the reason.

“There’s often more work than volunteers and resources,” Salter said. “So yeah, it’s definitely a strain.”


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Jennifer R. Strohm