Sudbury firefighters step in to help with crowding crisis at pet shelter

When Sudbury firefighter Remi Lariviere walked into Pet Save Sudbury with his girlfriend last May to adopt a dog, he knew right away this was an organization he wanted to work with.

“I kind of got a glimpse of all the good work they do,” said Lariviere, a member of the Sudbury Professional Fire Fighters Association. “Also the volume of pets that they are getting and how busy and overcapacity they are, it seemed like a great idea to help them.” 

It did not take long for Lariviere to pick up the phone and speak with Jill Pessot, the director of Pet Save Sudbury. 

“I wanted to help these animals get adopted,” said Lariviere, “So, to be able to do this through our social media page and through our followers and as a fire department I thought it would be a great little collaboration.”

The moment the phone call came in, the Director of Pet Save Sudbury said she was grateful as they currently are dealing with an over capacity of animals.

At one point we had so many puppies in the building, I had to convert my cat rooms to dog and puppy rooms and move my cats to another building– Jill Pessot, Director of Pet Save Sudbury

“We have such an over population right now happening we are even beyond what I would say crisis level,” said Jill Pessot. “So, when we were approached by the Sudbury Firefighters to help get some exposure to some of our homeless friends we were very excited.”

August was the first month of the collaboration, which has the dogs posing with firefighters each month, and then published on the association’s social pages. Rottweiler mix Diamond was the first to be selected and invited to the local firehall. 

“She was a little bit timid at first,” said Lariviere. “There were a lot of people there, big trucks, noises but once she got comfortable we were able to get her up in the trucks where she got to sniff around and take some photos with the guys.”

In less than 24 hours, the photo of Diamond alongside firefighter Fraser Dane and Carl Hudson was shared and loved by hundreds of people. 

“It kind of blew up from the get go,” said Lariviere. “The social media page reached a lot of people and it will be interesting to see what more we can do.” 

Remi Lariviere is a firefighter who adopted, Hazel-Mae, a dog from Pet Save Sudbury. He’s arranging for these dogs to be profiled on social media with firefighters, to help attract attention to their plight. (Remi Lariviere)

Jill Pessot says this is a great first step and she has already been receiving inquiries about the dog. 

“We’re hopeful that this will be something positive and get us a home for Diamond,” said Pessot.

“We see hundreds of shares online and we see a lot of good responses.”

Pessot is hopeful this collaboration will help the shelter find homes for the dogs they currently have. The organization is currently facing an overflow of animals at a level Pessot has never been seen before. 

“I’ve probably got about 25 puppies right now which has been the lowest we’ve been at over the last several years,” said Pessot.

“And we probably have an additional 15 to 20 adult dogs on any given day. With those numbers I’ve actually had to stop my intake because we got so overwhelmed. Even our vets can’t keep up to the amount of work that’s required to care for this many.”

Pessot said her team has been operating at over-capacity for so long that for the first time in 23 years they have had to say no intake unless the dogs are injured. She said the numbers are so high her team is exhausted and she sees no end in sight. 

According to Pessot their foster network is full and overflowing. 

“At one point we had so many puppies in the building, I had to convert my cat rooms to dog and puppy rooms and move my cats to another building.”

With Pet Save Sudbury numbers being ten times higher than they are used to operating at, Pessot said they’ve been struggling with service and have been receiving a lot of complaints about not being able to return calls in a timely manner. 

“You know cats have always been a struggle with overpopulation but dogs were never an issue in the past, ” said Pessot.

“We could take in from the northern communities in the far north but now we can’t.” 

That’s a first for Pet Save Sudbury since they began operating, said Pessot.

a woman in a red sweater smiling as she reaches to pet a cat
Jill Pessot, director of Pet Save in Sudbury says they are struggling to keep up with the number of rescues coming through their program. They looking to re-home over 50 dogs. (Jan Lakes/CBC)

Pessot said it was a really tough and heartbreaking decision to make. She said without their help dogs in these remote communities have a low survival rate. 

“They don’t have the same level of access as our people locally to be able to re-home their dogs,” said Pessot.

“At the moment, northern Manitoba and northern Ontario First Nations communities are looking to move like 5,000 dogs and puppies. They have been flown all over the country.”

Pessot said she may not be able to take in dogs right now but it has not stopped her from being able to help transport them down to southern Ontario. 

“We have service trucks called the bark bus,” said Pessot. “They are provided by Northern Legacy Farms which sets up the drivers and sends them up north.” 

The dogs are then cared for here in Sudbury and then reloaded into the trucks to travel on to southern Ontario and various destinations. Pessot said she does whatever she can to help get the dogs safely from the North.

Morning North6:24The Sudbury Professional Fire Fighters Association steps up to help Pet Save Sudbury

Every month, Sudbury firefighters will bring in a new four-legged friend to their fire hall. Sudbury’s Professional Firefighters Association is helping Pet Save Sudbury find forever homes for over 50 dogs. Jill Pessot of Pet Save Sudbury and firefighter Remi Lariviere joined us in studio to talk about the initiative.

Working at over capacity also means operating costs have gone up for Pessot. She said a lot of the animals coming in are very sick and have been injured.

“The vet bills have soared,” said Pessot. “We have hit an all time high this year by spending $40,000 in vet bills over a six week period.” 

Pet Save Sudbury is a nonprofit organization not funded by the government and fully operates with the help of donations and money raised at their thrift store. 

With the organization facing such a challenging time, Lariviere said collaborating with Pet Save Sudbury was the least they could do. 

“I think that anyone who’s interested in a dog should really consider adopting,” said Lariviere. ” A lot of these animals want to be loved and want to be in homes and there’s just so many of them. There are a lot of breeders out there where you can buy a dog but when you’re adopting, you’re giving that animal a second chance and that’s super important. They’re great animals.”

The next dog to be featured alongside local firefighters will be invited to the firehall in mid-September. 

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