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Animals From Afar

Animals From Afar

Whether through nonprofit organizations or individually, many Canadians are adopting all sorts of different animals—dogs, cats, exotic birds, and even horses—from afar, places around the globe where stray, sick, and abandoned creatures abound.

When Susan Patterson was looking for a new dog after two other furry pets had died of old age, she never imagined that an emaciated, three-legged chihuahua-terrier mix named Homer would so drastically change her life.

Compassion turns to action

The Vancouver resident hadn’t been able to find a small dog at any local shelters, so she began surfing the internet. She discovered a rescue organization based in Oregon that had taken in Homer from a high-kill shelter, where there’s a time limit for adoptable animals before they’re euthanized. Because of his disability, he would almost certainly be put down. Patterson drove for nearly six hours to get Homer and bring him home.

“When I got him, he was only 5 pounds and had one leg that was rotated,” Patterson says. “He had reportedly been repeatedly thrown out of a speeding vehicle. He was starving and disabled, but he was the happiest little thing. He was so happy he was wiggling.”

Now 10 years old, Homer is much heavier than when Patterson first set eyes on him. What she learned during the experience of finding him was eye-opening: every year, about 1.5 million shelter animals in the US are euthanized (670,000 dogs and 860,000 cats). Patterson went on to found Thank DOG I Am Out Dog Rescue Society, with a mission to save dogs that are at risk of being euthanized, abused, surrendered, or abandoned.

Rescue organizations answer the call

Whether through nonprofit organizations or individually, many Canadians are adopting all sorts of different animals from afar, places around the globe where stray, sick, and abandoned creatures abound.


When it comes to dogs, it’s not known how many are imported into Canada every year, but an independent group of citizens and a 2016 report by the Canadian National Canine Importation Working Group reported that in 2013 and 2014:

  • 197 Canadian rescue organizations (including SPCAs and humane societies) imported dogs
  • 21 foreign rescue organizations exported dogs to Canada
  • 6,200 dogs came in from at least 29 different countries (including the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Greece, Egypt, Lebanon, and Romania), though that figure is likely an underestimation, with most going to homes in BC, Alberta, and Ontario

Adoptees and adopters are vetted

While they vary from one to the next, rescue organizations tend to be run by volunteers, who may travel the world to bring discarded, ill, injured, or homeless animals back to Canada. They seek veterinary care as well as “forever homes” for the animals and are typically rigorous in their screening of prospective new owners.

Groups like Thank DOG I Am Out interview applicants and even visit homes to ensure people are equipped for and committed to a rescued pet. That organization also ensures the pets have been tested for certain diseases, and they go to their new home groomed and with a microchip and ID tag.

People may not ever know the back story of the animals or their exact age or even breed; those who choose this route to find a pet are usually driven solely by compassion and caring. Having a pet, meanwhile, is a fulfilling experience that can reduce stress and improve mood.

Rescue organizations

Susan Patterson of Thank DOG I Am Out Dog Rescue Society encourages people to check their local shelters first before adopting pets from elsewhere in the world.

Thank DOG I Am Out

With the help of more than 100 volunteers, this Vancouver-based nonprofit society rescues dogs at risk of being euthanized, surrendered, abused, or neglected.

Greyhaven Exotic Bird Sanctuary

The Surrey, BC, nonprofit protects exotic birds, particularly parrots, and enhances their quality of life. They also offer education and support to parrot “guardians” and anyone else who is interested, including schools and other organizations.


Based in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, and Victoria, BC, this nonprofit society helps homeless dogs via rescue, fostering, and adoption.

Save a Life Canada Animal Rescue Society

Located in Nova Scotia, it rescues animals from kill shelters throughout Canada and the US for fostering or adoption.

Dublin rides to new pastures

An avid equestrian, Hanna Norris was going to university in Texas when she learned about a slaughter pen there. She also found out about the volunteers who try to find homes for the horses, before it’s too late, by distributing photos of them via social media.

One of the animals caught Norris’s eye, and she found out he had about 12 hours left to live. She called her parents in Vancouver, and the decision was made: they would find a way to bring the horse home.

Naming him Dublin, Norris and her family arranged for a transport company to drive him to his new stable in Langley. Although skinny and timid at first, Dublin has since blossomed.

“He’s the sweetest little guy,” Norris says. “He’s kind of funny. Everyone in the barn loves him. His personality has really come out.

“It’s such a rewarding experience to care for an animal that was in a bad situation and to nurture him,” she says. “It’s amazing to know you’ve made a difference.”

Lilly may have wanted a cracker, gets a rescue

Janesh Dhanji has a beloved pet parrot named Lilly that his parents found through a nonprofit society that protects exotic birds. This one had been abandoned at the Canada-US border in a shoebox without any food.

“She liked us instantaneously,” Dhanji says. “She made this little talking sound, and she allowed me to pet her on the top of her head the first time I met her. We’ve had her for 18 years, and she still expects me to constantly pet her.”

The organization that helped Lilly opposes the breeding and selling of parrots through pet stores, a philosophy that Dhanji shares.

“When you go to a pet store, you’re funding the pet store, not giving a pet another chance,” he says.

Sunnier days for Rosie and Gigi

It was vacation time in sunny spots south of the border that led Janice Porter to adopt dogs in urgent need of a permanent home. The North Vancouver resident currently has two small four-legged friends: Rosie, a vocal but affectionate mixed breed who was rescued from an overpopulated high-kill shelter in California; and Gigi, who was rescued by the SPCA in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. The latter was initially fearful and sick but is extremely loving and especially fond of Porter’s grandkids.

“It just makes sense to adopt a rescue dog before you would buy a dog from a breeder,” Porter says. “There are so many dogs that really need homes and really need loving.”

Dogs and cats may be the first kinds of animals that come to mind when it comes to adopted and rescued pets, but they’re not the only ones.



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