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Four-legged Jets

by Kristi Hennessy / Winnipeg Jets

Carla Martinelli-Irvine is the founder and director of the Winnipeg Pet Rescue Shelter. Located on west Portage Avenue, the shelter is a place where abandoned or unwanted pets come to stay until a loving home is found for them.

“If they’re sick, we treat. If they are broken, we fix and we heal, and if they just need a place to sleep and get some love until they find a home, that’s what we provide,” said Martinelli-Irvine.

With the large number of puppies coming to the shelter this time of year, coming up with names for them all can be a challenge. So Carla and her staff thought, if everyone in the city is so crazy about the Jets right now, so why not get the puppies involved too?

Each puppy is named after a player on the Winnipeg Jets. Adoptions have increased considerably since naming the Jets puppies and the response is extremely positive. Winnipeg now has several four legged Jets walking around the city, living a happy and healthy life, some even sporting Jets jerseys.

The Winnipeg Pet Rescue Shelter, charity registered since 1999, was the first No-Kill animal shelter in Manitoba. No-Kill means that every animal that walks through the door will stay there until a home is found, no matter how long it takes. Some pets stay for a few days, some a week and some even a year.

It also means that they are not funded in any way by the city, government or government agencies, they are a non-profit charity relying strictly on generous donations.

“I originally started this shelter to help people that were ill who were being forced to move into palliative care or nursing homes,” said Martinelli-Irvine. “I felt that those people needed a place where they knew their pets would be safe. There is somebody for everybody out there, we just sometimes have to wait awhile.”

Every week, there is an average of 25-40 unwanted pets dropped off at the shelter. There are over 40 puppies currently in foster homes healing from surgeries and illness or that need to be hand fed because they were taken from their mother too young. There are over 200 pets on the waiting list to get a spot at the shelter and the number is increasing every day.

“Our shelter has become kind of a ‘drop-off zone’, because we don’t need the perfect pet,” she said. “We’ll take the injured and we’ll take the weak because we’ll fix them. If they have a broken bone, we’ll do the surgery, and they can have a happy life.

“We have a one hundred percent success rate. My whole mission is to eliminate the suffering and hang onto them until we can find homes for them.”

There is a reason that the shelters see a real influx of puppies this time of year. In some Northern Manitoba communities, one way of controlling the pet population is to kill them. This means that people go around on specific days shooting dogs and receiving money in return.

Teachers, nurses and RCMP in the area drive around and pick up all of the puppies they can find on these days and send them to the shelter. The litters keep pouring in.

“They are not viewed as pets they are viewed as animals,” she explained. “To us, it doesn’t matter where they come from, a life is a life, and that’s how we value it. Their sin was being born when and where they were born.”

Carla has been helping rescue pets for 21 years.  She says that although everyone loves the idea of the No-Kill shelter, it is very expensive to keep going. The shelter needs $20,000 per month to continue to provide the care these animals need to survive.

 “I’ve been doing this a long time, this is my life’s work. Thousands and thousands and thousands of animals literally, have found homes just by walking through our door. My vision is to have empty cages, to not be able to fill all of the cages.”

For most animal lovers, this job would be beyond challenging. The emotional roller coaster would be unbearable to face day-in, and day-out.

“As tough as it is, it’s rewarding, but it’s a really tough job,” she admits. “But at the end of the day, I know we’re making a difference.”

For more information on adopting or to donate to the Winnipeg Pet Rescue Shelter, please visit the shelter at:

3062 Portage Avenue or visit the website at

Author: Kristi Hennessy-

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