Wednesday, 05 February 2014 06:39

SPCA needs community support to keep shelter doors open

Written by  Matthew Liebenberg
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The Swift Current SPCA has launched a fundraising initiative to counter the growing cost of operating the shelter and to maintain its current services.


The society kicked off its $14-for-2014 campaign Jan. 30 at City Hall when Swift Current Mayor Jerrod Schafer presented the SPCA with its first donation of $140.
The Swift Current SPCA was established in 1971. The organization had no shelter during the early years and individual members accepted stray animals for adoption. A shelter was opened in 1977 after an agreement with the City of Swift Current and the society’s current facility at 2101 Knight Crescent opened in 1990 on land donated by the City.
Schafer felt it is vitally important to have an animal shelter in the city.
“Obviously, we often think about taking care of people in a community, but animals are an important part of that too and we hate to see animals suffer,” he said. “So, if there’s an opportunity for them to go where they’re safe until they can find a family that’s going to love and take care of them, it’s a great thing.”
Through the $14-for-2014 campaign the society is asking Swift Current area residents for a contribution of $14 per person. Residents can expect to receive donation envelopes in their mailboxes in early February.
SPCA Board Chairperson Graham Parsons said the society’s expenses have exceeded income for four of the last five years and they need community support to keep the shelter’s doors open.
“It’s a month-by-month thing,” he mentioned. “Our expenses have just rocketed in the last few years and we need a bit of a push on money to make it work, but at the moment, we’re operating as normally. We don’t see any immediate problem, but if we don’t address it fairly soon it could be an issue.”
The SPCA takes care of lost, abandoned or unwanted animals. The shelter is almost always at capacity with cats but dogs are adopted faster. From 2011 to 2013 the shelter cared for and found new homes for more than 600 cats and nearly 300 dogs.
“The facility itself is in a good position to do the work that it needs to do, but we’re simply faced with some of the same challenges that everyone else has, which is rising costs for the most part and rising demand on our services,” board member Susan McLaughlin said.
The shelter’s operational costs have almost doubled compared to five years ago as a result of increases in utility costs and veterinary services, a gradual increase in the number of animals and the higher price of food, cleaning materials and other items required to take care of the animals.
Longer opening hours to make it easier for people to view animals available for adoption add to the operating cost and the facility had to be upgraded to install a quarantine room that prevents the spread of disease.
“We’re doing a lot more care in that shelter compared to a few years ago and all these things just keep going up,” Parsons said. “It just keeps raising and unfortunately, the level of donations hasn’t really kept pace and that’s what we’re working on.”
The board considered ways to cut costs and to generate more income during a meeting in late 2013. Staffing levels are already at a minimum, but the shelter is hoping to maintain opening hours to allow the public to visit and to find a home for animals.
“It costs us approximately $700 a day to operate the shelter,” he said. “We run the pound for the City, they contribute towards that, and there are some regular amounts of money coming in from that, but we need to increase our income to keep it sustainable.”
According to Parsons, the shelter needs to generate about 80 per cent of its own income. While adoption fees generate some income, it does not cover the real cost of caring for the animals. He felt the shelter provides an essential service to the community.
“If we don’t have that, what happens?” he asked. “There are strays in town that have to be dealt with, people need to unfortunately surrender their animals from time to time and they’ve got to go somewhere and we’re proud of our operation. It’s a no kill shelter, we don’t euthanize animals there, we find them all homes, but that takes a lot of effort and resources.”
McLaughlin referred to the importance of the shelter’s mandatory spay/neuter program to prevent an increase in unwanted animals in the community. An unaltered female cat can potentially produce up to 10 kittens per year.
“The spay and neuter service alone is just absolutely invaluable to the community, particularly where the cats are concerned,” she said. “We want to make sure that we’re still doing that five years from now.”
The society is planning its first SPCA Radio-thon in the early spring to extend its reach to a wider area than just the city. The organization is hoping to receive support from the surrounding areas because it receives stray and overflow animals from other communities.
The SPCA’s goal is to raise at least $50,000 in 2014 and its aim is to also find long-term corporate sponsorships. Parsons is confident the shelter will keep its doors open through active engagement with the community.
“Those that do support us currently or previously have been very generous and we’re really grateful and appreciate every part of that, but I think there’s a lot of households in the Swift Current area that are not really a hundred per cent sure what we do and would be supportive if we just reach out to them and that’s the reason for this campaign,” he said.
In addition to cash donations, the shelter would welcome donations of pet food and cleaning supplies. There are other ways to support the Swift Current SPCA throughout the year — buy 50/50 tickets from their booth at Frontier Days, purchase a table at their Fall Gala, take recyclables to Sarcan and ask that proceeds go to the SPCA, visit the SPCA used bookstore or donate at any time through their website at www.spcaswiftcurrent.com.

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