SPCA pushing forward

Swift Current SPCA Shelter Manager Amy McLean places bags of donated recyclable beverage containers in an empty dog run, May 12.

The Swift Current SPCA is facing a significant challenge to raise funds for shelter operations while public health measures remain in place to reduce the risk of COVID19 infection.

“Since the virus came into play, our donations gone kind of nowhere and donations make the SPCA works,” Swift Current SPCA President Larry Johnson said. “We're still accepting. If anybody wants to donate anything to the shelter or to the bookstore, just get hold of us and we'll certainly accept your donation.”

The animal shelter has been temporarily closed to the public since March 16 due to the requirements for physical distancing and the bookstore closed on March 20 to protect the health of volunteers and customers.

“We've done extremely well for adopting animals out, but we still have pay cheques for the people at the shelter and without the donations coming in, it's a struggle for the SPCA to maintain all our expenses that we do have,” he said.

Some staff have been laid off due to the pandemic, but there are still staff caring for animals at the shelter. According to Johnson the SPCA is looking at applying for any relevant federal support that might be available to a non-profit organization.

“We have people on the board that are looking into all those,” he said. “We have to have people at the shelter, because the animals are there. Some of them are laid off, so we are looking into the various programs and I'm sure there's a program out there that will cover the people that have been laid off or part-time.”

Shelter Manager Amy McLean said animals are still receiving all the care they need. There are fewer staff on duty, but there are fewer animals to care for. Many animals have been fostered or adopted since the pandemic restrictions came into effect.

There was a very good response from the community to a request for foster homes for animals and adoptions also increased significantly.

“The foster program exploded when we first had a call-out there,” she mentioned. “It was just so helpful and just awesome. People really stood up for us and the animals. Originally, I had about half of the animals in the shelter actually go out into foster homes. As people started to more adopt, we were pulling back from foster and then they were being adopted and going to their forever home.”

Many of the animals were actually adopted by people who initially signed up for fostering. At the moment most of the animals in foster care are female cats and their kittens.

“We're still taking applications for anybody who would be willing to foster and then if anything specific comes in that's more in need of a foster home we are sending them out,” she said. “But overall, I’m just keeping what I have in shelter, because they're been adopted out so fast. It seems as soon as they get into a foster home they almost have to come back right away.”

The SPCA is still accepting stray or surrendered animals, and adoptions are continuing, but procedures have been changed to accommodate the need for physical distancing. Arrangements will be made over the phone, including the procedures to drop off animals.

“Everything is over the phone, for the most part, taking information and having things filled out that way,” she said. “So everything is still going, it's just no public in the building. Anybody wanting to adopt, if it is a canine, we do a meet and greet in an outdoor run. The people can come and meet the animal at a distance from staff, and then they just call me and anything due to contract or payments is all done online.”

Johnson noted that the SPCA is considering re-opening the shelter and the bookstore to the public in the near future, but the necessary arrangements will have to be implemented to accommodate the existing public health measures still in effect. Updates and more details about opening dates for the shelter and bookstore will be provided on the Swift Current SPCA Facebook page.

In the meantime, the organization will continue to face challenges to raise funds. The Swift Current SPCA needs to raise more than 80 per cent of its annual budget in the community. It receives a grant from the City of Swift Current for pound care and licensing services, but it does not receive any provincial or federal core funding for services, and it is not affiliated with or funded by the Saskatchewan SPCA.

Swift Current SPCA Development Officer Teresa Cole said they host numerous fundraisers in the community throughout the year, but all these activities have now come to a halt due to the COVID-19 measures.

“For us the ongoing fundraising throughout the year is really about survival,” she emphasized. “It all goes to the local operations and we're really quite dependent on things we can do throughout the year.”

A key factor in this approach is their presence at different events, for example at the annual Picnic in the Park and at trade shows, as well as a lot face-to-face activities.

“Our strategy has been a lot of smaller events for the most part, although we have a couple of larger things throughout the year, with all of those revenue streams filtering together and hoping that if one of those isn't successful, then the others will be there,” she said. “Unfortunately, we didn't anticipate a situation like this, where so many of them would be impacted all at the same time.”

Cole estimated their regular donations are down about 50 per cent compared to the same time last year, which reflects the impact of the pandemic on the community.

“Individuals and businesses sometimes do some promotions and third-party fundraising for us, and especially with the COVID close-down everybody is focused on survival,” she said.

At the moment the Swift Current SPCA has three active fundraisers. Donations to the $20 for 2020 annual appeal are still accepted, and pet owners can already submit photos of their pets to the 2021 pet calendar. The cost of entries varies from $5 to $20, depending on the spot selected in the calendar.

Another option is to support the SPCA through the donation of recyclable beverage containers. Bags of clean, de-capped containers can be dropped off at any time at the shelter’s front entrance, located at 2101 Knight Crescent.

Another option would be to make a monetary donation online at the SPCA website at www.spcaswiftcurrent.com or by electronic funds transfer to treasurer@spcaswiftcurrent.com. Donations can also be mailed to the Swift Current SPCA at Box 1163, Swift Current, S9H 3X3.

“We understand a lot of folks just aren't in a position to donate, but we really hope that folks that are in a position to, would think about us and hopefully try to maintain the service in the community going forward,” she said.

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