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Dear WHS friends and supporters,

In the past four months, we have faced an unprecedented challenge which caught us off guard: We had three dogs escape from our care during the transfer to or from our facility. This is not only embarrassing for a shelter that has been in active operation since 1894; it is an issue of safety for our staff and the community.

It is not easy to write about things that don’t go according to plan. However, we have a pledge to be fully open, accountable and transparent in our work.

The Winnipeg Humane Society handles approximately 8,000 animals annually. Some of these animals come to the shelter in kennels or leashes and some of these animals come here with symptoms of very serious and contagious diseases. Sometimes the animals need urgent veterinary care after hours and we must transfer them to an emergency clinic for immediate help.

In one situation, the dog required medical testing before entering the facility as we needed to ensure the dog would not spread disease to other animals. During this time the dog managed to break loose of the collar and run. The second case involved a smaller dog recovering from surgery in our clinic and managed to snap out of the collar when being walked. And the third time the dog was being transferred to an emergency clinic because it arrived late at night, was fairly upset and broke loose.

Thanks to the wonderful assistance of Winnipeg Lost Dog Alert, Kristy Rae and the caring interest of the public, we were able to safely retrieve all three dogs and they did not injure themselves further while running at large. In other words, we were very lucky you were all here for us.

You could say, as many pointed out in social media comments, that managing 8,000 animals means some mistakes will happen; and it is true. Our staff works very hard and with incredible compassion, but sometimes we do make mistakes. While we cannot prevent everything from happening, we can most certainly redouble our efforts to avoid the same issues happening in the future.

I want to let everyone know that we have implemented new humane safety protocols to ensure transfers of dogs occur in a safe environment. The most salient points are:

  • All medium to large canines are to be walked on a noose lead while being transferred to the WHS facility.
  • All small dogs are to be contained in a secured transport kennel.
  • The transfer of uncontained canines will only take place inside the secured garage at the WHS. No attempt to transfer uncontained animals will be made in any other location at or around WHS.
  • When transferring all uncontained canines to another facility, the canine will be handled on a noose lead only. Clipping the leash to a collar will not be considered acceptable.
  • Two WHS staff members should be present whenever possible to ensure the safe transfer. If the canine is fractious, each staff member will place a noose lead on the canine to ensure safe control.

We met with our friends from Winnipeg Lost Dog Alert and they agree that these changes should result in far less incidents while being humane and caring to all animals. Winnipeg Lost Dog Alert also recommends dogs having a second leash – in addition to the noose lead – that is preferably attached from the dog’s collar to the handler. We will look into the feasibility of implementing this.

As always, if any member of the public have questions or concerns, they can reach out to me and I will be happy to meet or have a conversation over the phone.

Let’s hope that with these changes you won’t see a social media post about a WHS lost dog in a long, long time.