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“Urgent”

That is the one-line text message from the WHS Deputy CEO I received at 1pm yesterday. It was followed by a video showing that our main adoption area at the shelter was completely under water, it was a torrential rain and the ceiling tiles were scattered all over.

My reply was short, my hands a bit shaky:

“Be right there. Is the back area okay?”

I don’t recall much of the drive back to the shelter, other than my brain thinking about the welfare of the animals and the team. Upon arrival, three fire trucks were parked at the front, and a small gathering of staff was outside, most of them with dogs, some in their cars warming up some cats that needed to be evacuated.

What you need to know, dear WHS supporter and friend, is that the staff at your Winnipeg Humane Society is simply amazing. In a matter of minutes all dogs were moved out of harm’s way, cats were also removed and placed in a safe location. The Joyce Gauthier Behaviour and Training Centre, unaffected by the flood, became a warm space to relocate our dogs. Every area of the shelter came out to assist.

During a crisis, there is little time to think and a thousand decisions to make: what volunteers and staff do we need to help us and our animals? Are we still open? Where do we get water for cleaning since our supply is shut off? Can we stop the water from flooding a hallway with a makeshift dam (Who knew our Administration team had engineering chops?). I believe the entire team made the best decisions based on the situation. There is little time to think and lots of people looking at you in search of answers.

So, what happened? The fire suppression system pipe froze because a “damper” failed. This device regulates airflow inside ducts and pipes, and because it failed the water froze, expanded and burst through the fire suppressant pipe.

And did we get flooded… Thank you to the amazing help from the Fire Department, who stayed on for over an hour to help out and the phenomenal WHS staff & volunteers, adoption pods were cleaned and sanitized and dogs were back inside quickly.

The flood started at 1pm. By 10:00 pm we had our insurance claims adjuster taking pictures and a restoration company working to remove all water and start the process of de-humidifying and assessing what needs to be replaced.

Fans and dehumidifiers are placed all over the shelter to assist in drying up the moisture.

We lost computers, a lot of items for sale from the gift shop, and more importantly we are currently closed making sure our animals are safe and can de-stress after a fairly traumatic experience (water coming down the ceiling and you just sitting in a small room would make anyone nervous). We are confident all our dogs and cats will be ready to receive the public very soon.

And while of course we have insurance, there are a lot of additional costs, most notably keeping more animals around because adoptions is closed but we are still taking in emergency cases as we can. On top of the animals, which is always our priority, we have to make immediate purchases (such as computers for our adoption area, relocating staff, re-stocking the gift shop, power bars to plug machines back in… you name it).

I write this at 9am of the next day. The place is a bit damp, and the noise of the fans makes the areas affected by the flood sound like an airplane in mid-air. But as much as this has been a very trying 24 hours, it has shown once again that you are supporting an exceptional group of staff and volunteers who are willing to act quickly to protect animals, no matter the situation. High heels or boots, everyone got wet to help the animals.

The response from staff, volunteers, and the Fire Department was outstanding. It took hours to clear the water from the shelter.

It is humbling to see the commitment and a privilege to lead this organization. As I wrote to staff last night, “we will re-build”. We’ll get back on our feet because we can count on the encouragement and support of the community.

If you can help us, we would sincerely appreciate it. And please keep visiting our social media pages or our website, we will announce when adoptions and administration will re-open. Our Intake, Emergency Response and Clinic are all operating normally.

In service,

Javier