The Animal Guardian Society (TAGS) in Durham Region is run completely by volunteers and runs programs for upcoming pet owners who wish to adopt from the shelter.
TAGS focuses on saving abused animals from the streets and giving families wanting a pet their forever home.
Kathy Asling, founder of the program, started TAGS in March 1987. It’s the first Durham Region-based rescue to be formed.
“The quality of care that goes into our animals to make sure they go to an ideal home is the same process of adopting a child. Some laugh at how tough it is to acquire an animal from us but I just say, isn’t that the point?” said Asling.
She said her inspiration to begin the society started when she found a homeless puppy years ago.
Asling discovered the issue surrounding strays in the region and soon began to set up foster homes with willing volunteers.
Due to a high number of strays, there has been an increase of spaying and neutering clinics around the region. Asling said the numbers of pregnant strays, especially cats, on the streets has increased and affects TAGS. The society provides foster homes outside of the region but with the overpopulation of kittens on the streets, it’s not an easy job for TAGS and other shelters.
“We’re aware that there are some high volume of spaying and neutering clinics. Some have opened up in Newmarket, Toronto as well, and they’re popping up all over,” said Asling. “They’re certainly helping making the cost of spaying and neutering that much more affordable for people, especially on fixed incomes.”
TAGS also offers many programs, including free behaviour training classes for dogs, microchipping, a dog park, and pet surrendering for families unwilling to care for their animals.
“All we want to do is educate people. If we provide services that allow people to come too us to become better educated and better owners it will help us with the animals in our programs,” says Asling. “People will call and say they can’t keep their animal for whatever reason and we will do an initial consultation with them to figure out the true reason behind it.”
Being fully volunteer operated means TAGS employees receive no income. As well, their fundraisers are not funded through any form of grants or government support. Asling said surviving off of the kindness of people and many giving up their time for these animals is never taken for granted. Asling hopes to continue raising enough money to expand TAGS in the region through her fundraisers.
Robin Voisey, a professor in the Animal Care program at Durham College, says she understands the needs of shelters in the region and would recommend them over stores and breeders.
“I think animal shelters try very hard to help the abundance of animals that are out there but, because they are non-profit charitable organizations, they are often managed incorrectly,” says Voisey, adding she fully supports TAGS.
Asling’s dream and goal is to see TAGS have a wellness centre. She began building a fund last year so her dream will become a reality.
“A wellness centre would not only be a place for people to meet adoptable animals but it will also incorporate education where we could have people come and learn more about animals,” says Asling.
Asling continues to educate the public during her consultations with TAGS.