Toronto Shelters Open Doors To People AND Their Pets In Extreme Cold

St. Felix Centre knows the importance of helping both people and their pets warm up.

By Justyne Yuen-Lee


Credit: / Gary Goldberg

In Toronto, temperatures have reached an all-time, record breaking low. While everyone waited for Santa in the six, they also waited for the heavy snowfall and extreme cold weather. Environment Canada issued an extreme cold weather alert as temperatures went below -20 degrees Celsius (-13 degrees Fahrenheit) with the windchill. Most people were lucky enough to have their homes and apartments to keep warm in and open presents on Christmas morning, but others weren’t as lucky.

Fred Lum : The Globe and Mail

Credit: The Globe and Mail / Fred Lum

Toronto mayor John Tory is under fire as homeless people were allegedly turned away from shelters and emergency shelters were not open. Now in the January thaw, the extreme cold is still here and there are people who cannot find a warm place to spend the night. For those who have pets, finding places to stay is an even harder challenge.


Nothing, not even the cold, can separate a person from their pet.

Some people would brave the cold with their pets rather than leave them behind. As a fellow animal lover, we’re sure your pet is like family and you could not imagine leaving them in the cold.

st.felixcentre facebook

Credit: Facebook / St. Felix Centre

A shining light during a crisis like this extreme cold is the willingness of places like St. Felix Centre to help. St. Felix Centre is a non-profit 24/7 drop in center that provides housing, medical care, and mental health and employment services.

The shelter has always been pet-friendly, but this year the center wanted to make their stance official with a PAWS program. St Felix launched the Pets: Accommodating Wishes and Support program where pet owners can apply for up to $300 for pet health care. This includes micro-chipping, spaying, neutering, flea treatments, and medicine.


The PAWS program opens so many opportunities for pet owners who find themselves homeless.

The PAWS program is not limited to dogs (yay!). To the Executive Director, Brian Harris, at St. Felix, “a pet is a pet, is a pet, is a pet.” He understands the reality that most people would choose to stay outside with their pet than go in a shelter without them.

St. Felix does not provide beds, but they do set out cots and provide snacks and warm drinks. They also have two dogs on staff!


Credit: Toronto Star / Bernard Weil

Hailey is a 4-year-old Dalmatian and Jigsaw is a 6-month-old Pug-Terrier-Chihuahua mix who likes to greet everyone before going to his office.

Sistering-A Woman's PlaceFb

Credit: Facebook / Sistering: A Woman’s Place

Other centers like Sistering, a women’s only drop-in, also welcome pets. Women line up for spots with reclining chairs and others make do with mats on the floor where they can sleep with their pets.


Credit: Toronto Star / Bernard Weil

In a Toronto Star article, staff writers interview Mike who had been staying at St. Felix for over a week with his giant 90-pound Mastiff-Rotweiller puppy, Diesel. Due to an unforeseen eviction, Mike and Diesel took to the streets. Mike lived with Diesel in a tent in the Toronto ravine system, as it was difficult to find a proper home for such a big dog.

Mike rescued Diesel as a puppy after his parents died – Mike even bottle-fed him for three weeks! The big puppy loves him to death and now has a warm place to stay at St. Felix. He tells The Star that ending up without a home can happen lightning fast and places like St. Felix are a great help.

You can donate to St. Felix Centre here and to Sistering here!