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Leslie Long Rescue volunteers working hard to bring animals off the streets

Service has seen growth in rescue numbers, with higher cost of living

Leslie Long has found her life passion, caring and advocating for animals who are sick and injured, and have no family to take them in.

Her self-named rescue service has taken countless dogs and cats off the streets in the East Kootenay region and placed them into loving homes.

There was Morgana, a mastiff St. Bernard cross who was rescued after her owner was diagnosed with bone cancer and Tina, a black cat, who found a second life after nearly dying from infection and winter weather as a stray.

“We called her Tina Turner, because the foster’s last name is Turner,” Long recalled.

Gucci, a 15-month-old boxer, had been neglected and lived her whole life in a cage, before she was scooped up and placed in a new home.

“That dog was just screaming freedom with every pore in her body. Everything just wiggled and wiggled, like I’m free,” she said.

She’s come across a few unique critters as well, including a duck, hedgehog, and a bearded dragon. Last year, she helped re-home a pig named Barbara, who is now thriving on an acreage south of Cranbrook.

READ MORE:Barbara the pig finds new home on Gold Creek acreage

The number of animals she and her dedicated team of volunteers have rescued has grown in recent years, in part, due to pressures from inflation and the rising cost of living, and a lack of affordable housing. Pet owners have given her their animals to re-home because they were unable to find a place to live and found themselves on the street.

“With the housing crisis, people are not able to find places to live or rent, can’t afford it, so you’ve got a homeless population. I have taken in a lot of animals from the homeless, get calls almost daily for people who have to move and can’t find a place to live,” she explained.

Long estimates that last year they rescued 162 animals, and had as many as 30 kittens in their care last spring. Spring is one of her busiest times, she said, because most cats give birth to their litters when the weather starts to warm.

“Kitten season’s going to be starting here any time now. They’ll be litters galore. We get bombarded,” she said.

In recent years, their rescue efforts have expanded out-of-province. To date, they have rescued approximately 200 stray dogs from Northern Manitoba reserves.

Long’s rescue works with Lexi’s Relief Rescue to transport dogs from Northern Manitoba. Carmen Allard, director of Lexi’s, said strays are a particular issue in the north due to a lack of proper health services.

Allard explained that many of the communities are fly-in and have no resident vet or doctor, which means dogs are not spayed or neutered and are allowed to breed in an uncontrolled setting.

She added that many communities don’t have bylaws in place to regulate these animals and they lack the officers necessary to enforce rules and regulations.

Allard has been working with local government to raise awareness of the importance of spay and neuter procedures.

“When Leslie and I bring dogs in, we kind of celebrate because that’s a lot less puppies being born,” she said.

Long’s rescue is not a registered society, so she relies on community donations and the goodwill of others to keep operations running. On May 11, she’s hosting a “Kiss the Pig,” fundraiser at Top Crop Garden, Farm and Pet in Cranbrook to raise funds.

People can vote on who they would like to see kiss Barbara the pig from a list of volunteer smoochers, that currently includes 107.5 Today FM sales representative Derek Kortschaga, Bridge Interiors owner Ken Bridge, real-estate agent Jason Wheeldon, Kootenay East MLA Tom Shypitka, Top Crop owner Shannon Fisher and Leslie Long. Votes are $2 each, and interested parties can place as many votes as they like.

Money will go towards supporting rescued animals as they find their place in new homes in communities across the Kootenay. Long’s rescue works with vets to spay and neuter their animals, and to ensure they get the vaccines, surgeries and medication they need to be healthy. They also offer loans to pet owners for expensive medical treatments and operations, and they do home inspections of prospective pet owners to ensure the animals are going to a suitable home.

Pig kissing votes can be placed by visiting Top Crop at 2101 Cranbrook St. North or by calling them at (250)-489-4555, or through Leslie Long Rescue on Facebook. The final tally of votes will be counted at the event on May 11.

About the Author: Gillian Francis

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