This year marks 20 years of animal welfare for the Cochrane & Area Humane Society (CAHS). Twenty years of rescuing stray animals, reducing pet overpopulation through spay and neuter programs and providing surrender and adoption services for local communities. To think it all started with an idea.
In 1998, Cochrane had a population of just over 9,000; the town through animal control provided animal welfare services for dogs. Two visionary women, Tracy Keith, a volunteer at the time with Animal Services, and Charlene Ruttle, an animal control officer, worked together to improve the living conditions for impounded animals and recognized a need in the community for better animal sheltering. They organized an open meeting to gauge interest in forming a humane society and were pleasantly surprised at the turnout from local residents – standing room only. And, just like that, the Cochrane Humane Society was born. Charlene remained with Animal Services and Tracy headed up the new society where she continues to lead as our Executive Director.
CAHS began out of community need and has grown the same way. Shortly after the society was founded, we began an outreach and support program for our neighbouring First Nations community in Morley. Dog overpopulation had become a problem and the residents wanted support. Initially, assistance came by way of spay and neuter clinics in partnership with Cochrane vet clinics and then evolved into a weekly occurrence to provide rescue for homeless animals and support for the community with animal welfare education and sterilization services for pets. This program has provided us the opportunity to build strong relationships and to get to know Morley residents who love their pets and want to do what is best for them. To date, we have assisted with the spay and neuter of close to 3,000 dogs and cats, over 20 years that is hundreds of thousands of unwanted litters that never happened!
Fast forward to 2018. The population of Cochrane has almost tripled to 26,320 and as our community grows so does the CAHS. We moved to a larger facility in 2007 with an in-house hospital to provide more immediate care for our residents and in 2017 expanded to add our Rehabilitation & Education Centre for dog training classes, programs for the public and all breed dog grooming. Our education program continues to grow and remains the foundation we build on to engage youth to be the animal advocates of the future. Staying true to our grassroots beginning we continue to offer support to other communities including incorporating Airdrie into our service area in 2016 and partnering with other rescue organizations to help underserved communities. In 20 years we have sheltered 20,000 animals, it seems fitting that the numbers have worked out like that.
Our 20th anniversary is on March 10, stop by the shelter for a piece of cake, meet some of our fabulous residents and experience firsthand the Little Shelter That Could!