Moose Jaw’s Running Wild Rescue is facing severe scrutiny after a mixture of over one hundred dogs and cats stranded in Revelstoke, BC on Nov. 16, 2022.
Running Wild supplied a cargo van and hired volunteers to transport the animals from Moose Jaw to Nanaimo to go to foster homes, with some of the rescues being dropped off along the way to their forever homes.
Tiffany Balla was one of the volunteers who responded to a help wanted ad issued by Running Wild and agreed to transport the animals to their destinations.
Balla took to social media a couple of weeks ago to tell her story of the events that transpired leading up to the animals being left in Revelstoke.
Initially, she and her husband were very excited to take on this assignment.
On November 16th, Balla left her home in Hepburn SK, and made the trip to the facility in Moose Jaw to meet with Jasmin Wenarchuk, the president of Running Wild Rescue. They saw the cargo van they would be taking out west and, at a first glance, were shocked but trusted the expertise of Running Wild.
“This delivery van was packed full of animals…not to the windows but to the roof…piled on top of each other…jammed packed and with no space. They said here you go, here’s the van, all the animals are in there. Don’t worry about anything; you guys are good to go.”
Wenarchuk then gave Balla all the information on the animal drop-off locations, along with providing them with money for gas, food, and some of their accommodations.
Balla asked Running Wild about bathroom breaks for the animals while on this three-province trip.
“They said we’ll give you some leashes and you can give them a little bit of a walk. They stressed that we couldn’t lose an animal and said if you’re worried about losing a dog, then just don’t worry about it.”
Wenarchuk adds that on these trips they usually leave in the early evening and then try to stop every five hours to allow the animals a bathroom break and get out of their kennel.
Another thing that was off-putting to Balla was the fact that Running Wild did not provide any food or water for the animals to consume along the way for the 19-hour journey.
When asked, Wenarchuk says the food and water were forgotten by the volunteers but advised them through a phone conversation to pick up food and water on the way with the money that was provided to them.
Balla and her husband were on their way to their first stop in Strathmore AB which was to drop off a kitten that was being adopted and Balla noted that transaction went smoothly.
Following the drop-off, the couple ran into a snowstorm which slowed them down but decided to continue the trip. Their next stop was on the west side of Calgary to drop off an adopted dog. Balla says that this is where the journey took a terrible turn.
“We found out that Moose, a dog who was being adopted, was right behind our seats, and at the very bottom of four or five layers of animals in crates. We had baby kittens, adult cats, baby puppies, and adult dogs in crates that we had to unload in –22 degree weather outside of Calgary and try to find this animal.”
Once Moose was located and given to his new owner, Balla and her husband proceeded to load all the animals back into the van but couldn’t fit four crates back in.
“I picked up one little, tiny dog, named Felix, and he had a big icicle coming out of his nose and I’ve never seen that before. Right there, I freaked out and told Aaron that this in not okay.”
After that incident, Balla reached out to Running Wild and shared her concerns.
“I said this is not okay, this is not acceptable, you have us running around in the freezing cold unloading animals with no shelter and loading them all back. You have no order or organization in how you loaded this van. They brushed it off and tried to downplay what just happened.”
Running Wild then offered to meet them in Calgary and take over the rest of the trip but couldn’t get there for a day or two due to bad weather in Saskatchewan, so they decided to continue to their next stop, which was in Revelstoke to drop-off another adopted dog.
“We got to Revelstoke, started unloading the animals, and people, aside from ourselves, started seeing the condition the van was in and how it was not made to transport live cargo. The conditions they had these animals in were two, three, and even four dogs in one crate.”
Once they started to unload the four to five rows of crates and kennels, Balla started to notice some damage.
“The crates were breaking already and I was scared because one of the bottom crates had a crack and I was like what if that breaks, and all those dogs fall on top of that dog.”
Thankfully enough for the two volunteers, the community of Revelstoke pitched in to try and help these animals. Balla explained that one of the cat kennels had up to six feline kittens in it.
“All the cats were dirtied, and messed themselves with the cat kennels. A lot of them were franticand terrified and we got the cats to the Days Inn Hotel in Revelstoke.”
Discover Moose Jaw reached out to the Days Inn Revelstoke for a comment and was able to speak with a front desk supervisor about their reaction to this situation.
“I was shocked,” says this individual. “We didn’t expect this many animals at once.”
Though there were several animals, the hotel granted them a room to keep them in.
The supervisor says that the stench from the animals was so overpowering that you could smell them on every floor of the hotel. Besides the smell, there was minimal damage done to the room, and a deep cleaning was required.
Once in the hotel room, they were able to give the cats baths with the help of local volunteers who responded to a call for help on a Revelstoke Community Facebook page and got all the animals cleaned up. Further, a Revelstoke resident was able to take most of the dogs as she had a big backyard and could house a large amount.
Seeing the conditions of the animals and the vehicle they were transported in, the BC SPCA was called to check out the situation.
“They, themselves, and a Constable said that this van is not insulated, there was not proper ventilation, and there’s no heating system in the back of this van, so there is no way these animals could be taken care of properly in this vehicle.”
Balla adds that the next day a local vet came and checked on all the animals.
Due to obligations back in Saskatchewan, the volunteers had to leave the animals in the care of three individuals, who they met in Revelstoke, that were adopting a dog from Running Wild. They have since returned back to the province.
Jasmin Wenarchuk, Running Wild Rescue president, says when she found out about what was going on in Revelstoke, she and her fiancé jumped in their vehicle, and rushed out to BC as fast as they could to finish the trip.
“I was shocked and pretty upset,” says, Wenarchuk. "I didn’t have many words when I found out, but I just knew I had to step in.”
Wenarchuk rushed to Revelstoke with another mini-van and split up the animals between the two vehicles.
She does take some of the blame for what happened.
“The volunteers didn’t have enough knowledge to do this kind of trip,” adds Wenarchuk. “These trips are not a vacation, they are let's get these animals to their forever homes, fosters and other rescues.”
“They didn’t abandon them, they got to Revelstoke, and they just wanted to come home, which was understandable. We offered them buses or the extra mini-van when we came down but they already found other arrangements.”
Running Wild also allowed them to keep the excess cash that was given to them for the trip, as a way to help them get home.
In terms of the transportation portion of the journey, Wenarchuk explained the protocols that they abide by when transporting these animals.
“We do not put water in the cages because we do not want the animals to end up in all the water and we don’t feed them on the transport because we don’t want them getting sick or getting something stuck in their throat.”
When the animals left their care, she explained that they were all healthy and checked all of them before, which is part of their routine before shipping the animals.
“If there is anyone that isn’t healthy enough to go, we will contact the adopter and let them know we don’t feel comfortable sending them. They are up to date on vaccinations and dewormed. If they can be fixed, they’re fixed.”
Running Wild frequently makes trips to BC, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan with animals, as they partner with a lot of foster homes and other rescues to give the animals they take in a chance at a forever home.
Wenarchuk says that, usually, this trip would take roughly 17 hours. But, due to the storm, took the volunteers 21 hours to get from Moose Jaw to Revelstoke.
A lot of the scrutiny that Wenarchuk and Running Wild have gotten is the number of animals they shipped at one time.
Don Ferguson, the executive director of the Animal Protection Services of Saskatchewan, was able to shed some light on the rules and regulations that need to be followed when transporting animals within the province or outside of it.
Ferguson says that, within the province, people that do transport animals fall under the Animal Protection Act of Saskatchewan. Federally, people will have to abide by the Health of Animals Regulations.
He explained that, under the Animal Protection Act, it is prohibited to transport sick or unfit animals.
“A person can’t load or transport an animal, or permit an animal to be loaded or transported, if it is ill, injured, or any other cause and the animal is unable to stand or would suffer during transport,” says Ferguson.
In this situation, where kennels were involved, Ferguson says that it is also prohibited that the animals be in distress.
“Distress is defined as being deprived of food or water to maintain the animal in a state of good health; they have to appropriate care and shelter and reasonable protection from the heat or the cold. They can’t be left in a hot or cold vehicle. They would be in distress if there were injured, wounded, suffering abuse, or neglected, or if they’re being kept in conditions that are unsanitary.”
The maximum penalty under the Animal Protection Act is a fine not above $25,000, or one day less than two years in jail. He adds that the court can make an order to prohibit animal ownership for a period of time.
Throughout all of this, Wenarchuk provided, “It was amazing what they did in Revelstoke. They did an amazing job and helped all of her animals and got them what they needed.”
Wenarchuk did say that she is facing repercussions from this incident but wasn’t able to fully provide those details at this time.
Discover Moose Jaw has reached out to BC SPCA on a comment if they’re investigating Running Wild, but has yet to hear a response.