Helpaws, a shelter for “sick, abandoned, abused or stray animals” in Saint Lucia, is overcrowded because Air Canada is bumping dogs off their flights to Toronto, according to a report by City News Toronto on Tuesday. SEE CITY NEWS VIDEO REPORT AT END OF ARTICLE
“It’s just heartbreaking to think that there are dogs being turned away,” Marie Schultz told City News. According to the report, Schultz adopted a puppy named Aspen three weeks ago but she has to wait until at least September to welcome the dog home because of a backlog at Helpaws.
Megan Rezka, operations manager at Helpaws, told City News: “We’ve got people now looking at puppies that they like to adopt and they wouldn’t be able to get them for another six months and that to us is just insane.”
According to the report, for the last three years, Helpaws has been sending rescued dogs to Toronto from Saint Lucia on Air Canada flights. During the winter, City News said the shelter sends up to 12 dogs per week with only two flights each week off Saint Lucia. In the summer, Helpaws had hoped to send a minimum of six dogs on each of the two flights, but according to City News, Helpaws claim they’re only being given access to one of the flights off Saint Lucia each week.
“We are given a 30-day window of booking, so we get our request in at exactly midnight of that 30-day window because it’s a first-come-first-serve basis. Despite having that email at the very second the pup becomes available we’re being told the flights are fully booked,” Rezka said.
She also told City News that Air Canada will only accept four dogs on the one flight being made available. The report states that the airline has cited concerns about oxygen level for the dogs though Helpaws claimed they’ve witnessed Air Canada load six dogs into a cargo bay and the animals were fine.
Due to the issue with the airline, the animal shelter is overcrowded with more than 100 dogs.
“We’ve got puppies in tents, everywhere in this house. We’ve got puppies in the bathrooms, we’ve got puppies in the front yard, the backyard, in the pens, 10 puppies per pen, which is too much, but there’s really nothing else we can do,” she said.
“Just last week we took in a box of puppies that were only four days old and they were just dumped on the beach to die,” she added.
In a statement, in part, from Air Canada to City News, the airline is quoted as saying: “We will do our best to carry this customer’s order as soon as possible but it depends on whether aircraft capacity and priority based on when booking is made.”
According to its Facebook page, Helpaws, which was founded in 2012 and is located in Soufriere “is an organization that addresses the unnecessary suffering of animals in St Lucia through rescue work and regular FREE Spay and Neuter clinics”.
“Our mission is to provide care for sick, abandoned, abused or stray animals in Saint Lucia along with providing education on proper animal care to local communities. Our goal is to reduce the number of unwanted animals through spay and neuter clinics,” the shelter’s Facebook states.