Disaster response

The Alberta Animal Rescue Crew (AARCS) and the Canadian Animal Task Force (CATF) have formed a partnership in order to combine resources and better assist animals, and their owners during an emergency. Together, we are able to  respond to large and small scale disasters. Through this partnership the “Alberta Animal Disaster Response” (AADR) was born.

AARCS and CATF teamed up informally to provide assistance during the following events: 

  • 2013 Southern Alberta Floods with staff and volunteers assisting in Calgary, High River, Siksika and Morley.  
  • 2014 Rollover accident involved 30+ dogs requiring two weeks of tracking and trapping terrified and injured dogs. 
  • 2016 Fort McMurray wildfires where crews were on the front lines for three weeks assisting with animal extraction and care of over 1,200 of animals, as well as managing animal care in Edmonton at the Animal Reunification Centre. 

Formally teamed up under Alberta Animal Disaster Response (AADR) we have responded to the following events: 

  • 2019 Northern Alberta Fires in the MD of Opportunity and Bigstone Cree Nation caring for over 300 animals.  

Together our organizations have a very strong volunteer base, including Registered Veterinary Technologists, Veterinarians experienced with emergency veterinary care, experienced animal rescuers, animal handlers, logistics, dispatch, government relations and a large database of volunteers with various skill sets.

Through our combined experience of running an animal shelter, handling large animal intakes, and high volume spay/neuter clinics, AADR is ready, willing and able to help municipalities, First Nations and our province to help animals during disasters. 

The AADR is a member of the  ​“Companion Animal Disaster Response Capability Steering Committee” that was formed in response to the need to create a province wide plan for companion animals in times of disaster. The Committee is led by the Alberta Veterinary Medical Association and the Director of Alberta Provincial Social Services, among other provincial agencies and animal welfare groups. ​The AADR is​ also a non profit member of the Calgary Emergency Management Agency. 

AADR and its representatives are committed to working under the guidelines of Unified Command to aid regional/municipal authorities who may require help with companion animals during an emergency. Personnel are trained in ICS (Incident Command System) and both organizations are registered charities that have worked closely together for the past 10 years. 

AARCS also provides a safekeeping program during emergencies for evacuated families to care for their pets temporarily until they can find alternate arrangements or rehoming services when it is not possible. 

For more information on our Disaster Response Program please email [email protected] 


When we first realized the severity of the floods we were all in shock but we jumped into action, and into the freezing waters, in order to save everything from pigs, chickens, horses, hares, and fawns to dogs and cats from the rising waters and ever-increasing currents that swept across Siksika First Nation. That community, like many others in Alberta, lay devastated within mere hours.

We watched houses literally being swept away by the currents. So, it is no wonder that so many animals also perished, unable to escape the rising waters. To this day, we cry over all those that did not make it. Many of us will continue to have nightmares over some of the horrific things we witnessed; but for all the sadness, there were many happy tales as well. During an emotional ten days, AARCS volunteers stepped up in droves, bringing blankets and food for the people who had lost their homes, setting up an operating station at the community and evacuation centre to assist with locating missing pets, working through the night to save as many animals as we could; helping to reunite animals with their owners as well as placing over 150 displaced animals into temporary foster care.

Some of our volunteers also went to High River, to Morley and assisted those affected in Calgary. In addition, we took in animals from seniors who had been relocated from a downtown Calgary Senior’s Home due to the evacuation order. Looking back, it seems unreal how everyone worked together, helped each other and supported us by coming out to the communities affected with boats, horse trailers, and pallets of food, stepping up to foster the displaced animals, working through the nights at our Safe Haven shelter to set up the incoming animals, or donating money and supplies. Since this experience, we have realized that disasters can happen at any time so it is important to be prepared, especially when it comes to animal rescue.

 FORT MCMURRAY wildfires 2016

Pets Extracted, Reunited or Relinquished into Rescue Organizations

“No Life Too Small.”

In May 2016, Alberta’s most devastating wildfires fiercely raced towards the city of Fort McMurray. It was one of the largest mandatory evacuations in Alberta’s history as 80,000 people were forced to flee their homes. The wildfire was aggressive and unpredictable, engulfing everything in its ever-changing path. Hundreds of residents had to flee from wherever they were, unable to return to their homes to retrieve their beloved pets. As we all watched the news coverage in disbelief and started seeing footage from incredible escape journeys, our thoughts went immediately to the hundreds of pets left behind. In that moment, it felt as if time was standing still. We all felt the urge to do something…anything…to help both the people and their pets.

ALBERTA STRONG, every corner of the province rallied together. Within a few days, it was safe enough for authorized rescuers to enter and a number of Animal Welfare Organizations were called in to assist the Municipality. The Animal Extraction Team was created to respond to the hundreds of incoming pet rescue requests and take action to extract and provide care for animals trapped within homes across the city. Teams, which included Animal Rescuers, Animal Control Officers, Certified Locksmiths and local Peace Officers, worked day and night to retrieve animals and respond to their immediate needs. Animals were then transferred to the Edmonton Pets & People Re-Unification Centre.

To this day, we reflect on the scale of the disaster and the efforts of so many people to rescue and reunite families with their pets.