Animal Disaster Response

Ensuring the safety of animals in times of disaster is a crucial aspect of emergency response. For many individuals, animals serve as cherished companions and are considered family members. The health and welfare of these companion animals must be taken into account both in disaster preparedness and response.

Sadly, there have been instances where owners jeopardized their own lives to safeguard their pets. For example, in 2005, some individuals lost their lives in hurricanes because they were unwilling to evacuate without their beloved animals.

Fortunately, governments responded to this tragedy by acknowledging the importance of including pets in disaster planning and response efforts. Despite these strides, there is still room for improvement, and our province has a long way to go when it comes to ensuring our collective capacity to assist animals during disasters. This is important work and is gaining greater significance as we face the consequences of climate change and the escalating frequency of severe weather events.

In 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 our community, animals, and their owners during an emergency. Together, we are can respond to large- and small-scale disasters. Through this partnership, the “Alberta Animal Disaster Response” (AADR) was born.

Combined, our organizations have a wealth of skillsets, including Registered Veterinary Technologists, Veterinarians, experienced animal rescuers, animal handlers, logistics, dispatch, government relations and a large database of volunteers. Through our combined experience of operating an animal shelter, handling large intakes of animals, and high-volume spay/neuter clinics, we are prepared to assist our community with their pets during disasters.

The AADR is a member of the “Companion Animal Disaster Response Capability Steering Committee”, which 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 (ABVMA) and the Director of Alberta Provincial Social Services, among other provincial agencies and animal welfare groups. The plan is still in progress, but a draft can be reviewed here.

AARCS and CATF teamed up to assist with the following events: 

    2023 NWT Wildfires

    In Northwest Territories, Canada, we assisted the NWT SPCA by taking their shelter animals following mandatory evacuation and providing assistance to owners evacuated to Edmonton and Calgary.

    2023 Alberta Wildfires

    In Sturgeon Lake First Nation, we assisted with the evacuation of Valleyview, and the holding and subsequent care for over 150 owned pets for two weeks until they could return home. We also assisted on the frontlines in Little Red River Cree Nation, assisting with the rescue of hundreds of pets and the subsequent care for these pets for months until owners could return home following the devastating wildfire that destroyed a portion of their community.

    Read More

    2019 Northern Alberta Fires

    In the MD of Opportunity and Bigstone Cree Nation, we worked on the front lines rescuing animals, cared for over 300 animals on a temporary basis, and managed reuinification.

    2016 Fort McMurray Wildfires

    Our crews were on the front lines for three weeks assisting with animal extraction and care of over 1,200 animals. We also managed animal care in Edmonton at the Animal Reunification Centre and provided temporary boarding.

    Read More

    2014 Rollover Accident

    A rollover including 30+ dogs, which required two weeks of tracking and trapping terrified and injured dogs.

    2013 Southern Alberta Floods

    Included front line rescue of hundreds of pets and emergency boarding with staff and volunteers assisting in Calgary, High River, Siksika and Morley.

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

    Thanks to our amazing supporters, our teams can respond and be on the frontlines rescuing animals, providing veterinary care, providing temporary shelter and reunifying families with their pets. We would like to give a special shoutout to the Canadian Red Cross for their generous grant to assist with costs related to the 2023 Wildfire Response.

    Alberta Wildfires 2023

    A provincial state of emergency was declared in Alberta on May 6th, 2023 due to numerous out-of-control wildfires. This state of emergency extended throughout the summer as fires raged across the province. These fires affected communities throughout Alberta in some...

    Fort McMurray Wildfires 2016

    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,...