In each “Behind the Scenes” segment, Village Media's Scott Sexsmith sits down with one of our local journalists to talk about the story behind the story.
These interviews are designed to help you better understand how our community-based reporters gather the information that lands in your local news feed. You can find more Behind the Scenes from reporter across Ontario here.
Today's spotlight is on SooToday's Alex Flood, whose story 'New animal rescue saves mother of dead puppies near Iron Bridge' was published on September 30, 2023.
Here's the original story if you need to catch up:
An investigation of animal cruelty near Iron Bridge remains ongoing after the carcasses of an unknown number of puppies were found in a cage on a side road last month.
But a new animal rescue in Sault Ste. Marie recently located and saved the mother of that litter, Roxy, who gave birth to a healthy litter of eight pups on Friday.
Called ‘Second Chances Animal Rescue,’ the group was founded by five local animal lovers this past August: Aleigha McLean, Melissa Pritchard, Shannon Wilson, Mikayla Huckerby, and Maddisyn Evans.
The idea to form the rescue came after the group’s co-founders recognized a startling uptick in people abandoning their animals.
“Shelters have been at capacity and full, so people have been letting their animals loose outside and out in the bush,” McLean said. “Just yesterday, someone dropped off two dogs in Goulais right beside the highway. They’re still somewhere lost in the bush around the highway.
“People are getting desperate and doing that kind of stuff, so we thought maybe we could alleviate some of that because we hate to see that happen.”
Day to day, the group will receive messages through their social media page about an animal in need of assistance. The rescue will determine if they have the resources to help and if they have an appropriate foster to match the animal with.
From there, the volunteers will get the animal vaccinated, microchipped, and then schedule deworming and flea prevention practices when necessary. If the animal is not spayed or neutered, the rescuers will set up an appointment at the Sault Animal Hospital across the river.
“Any fundraising we do goes towards the spaying and neutering,” McLean said. “If they get adopted before they’re spayed or neutered, then it’s up to the owners to go through with it. But we can drive them across if they need us.”
Besides dogs and cats, Second Chances Animal Rescue has also fostered rabbits, bearded dragons, rats, guinea pigs, and even a canary.
“If we have the room, we’ll accept them,” McLean said. “We’re not ‘drop it off at our house no matter what.’ We’re strategic about the numbers we bring in and if we’ll be able to rehome them properly.”
One of the group’s biggest rescues happened earlier this month when they managed to home three litters of kittens after a farmer in Thessalon was ready to do away with them.
“The farmer was going to round them all up in a sac and drown them, so someone was able to convince them about our rescue, and we got them all into homes,” McLean said. “They were all feral when we got them, but we have a lot of volunteers who will socialize them, so they were all ready to be a pet inside.”
A proud pet owner herself, McLean told SooToday that Roxy and her brand-new litter of pups have been doing great since the birth on Friday.
“She’s going to be an amazing dog for someone when she does get adopted,” she said. “She has a great temperament, and for coming from such a bad situation, she’s such a well-rounded and gentle dog, and is in really good health herself.”
“She can get spayed in eight weeks when she’s done nursing. Her story resonated with a lot of people, and several people have actually donated.”
The new rescue had been made aware of Roxy’s dire situation by a third party in recent weeks. Worried about a repeat incident from Iron Bridge, the anonymous party managed to convince the owner there was a good home for Roxy to go to.
Without having to contact the previous owners at all, the new rescue received Roxy safely, and she gave birth just a short time later.
“All of us were so devastated when we read the original story,” McLean said. “But even though some bad things did happen in her past, it’s going to be positive in her future now.”
Currently being cared for at one of the co-owner’s homes, Roxy and her litter will soon be transferred to a foster home and eventually placed for adoption.
“They’re all good weight and nursing well,” McLean said. “Roxy is a rottweiler mix and the puppies are believed to be a rottweiler-lab mix. They’re all doing really well so far.”
On Saturday, fosters with Second Chances Animal Rescue came together outside the Station Mall for a meet and greet where members of the public could interact with some of their furry animals in person and find them new homes.
“We adopted a few cats already today,” McLean said. “It’s a great way to see if there’s a connection there. We ask them about their home situation, and if it’s a dog, we ask a few more questions because each dog has very individual needs.”
“Even if no animal was adopted today, it’s still a win because the animals are still socializing.”
Since establishing themselves last month, the rescue has placed animals in around 20 foster homes, and nearly 70 pets have already found their forever homes.
Between 15 and 20 animals are currently looking for their forever home.
“We do this just for the animals,” McLean said. “When they come to us in bad shape, and then we see them go to a new home and they’re thriving – that’s what keeps us going.”
Second Chances Animal Rescue is currently waiting to get their non-profit charity application approved. Until then, the group is looking forward to running more garage sales, kitten cuddling stations, and other fundraisers to keep the operation sustainable.
“The community support has been fantastic,” McLean said. “We’ve broken even or lost money on some animals, but with more fundraising and getting that application approved, we’ll be able to offset costs.”