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SPCA hopes city covers service costs

Saskatoon SPCA is looking for ways to stay open. (First of two parts)

SASKATOON — The Saskatoon Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has a contract with the city in managing its pound services, an arrangement where the former is required to accept all animals brought to them by the Saskatoon Animal Control Agency. The city provides funding for the services provided by the charitable organization.

SACA works directly under the city and they are the ones called to pick up stray animals, like cats and dogs, seen in neighbourhoods. SACA then turn over the stray cats and dogs they pick up to SPCA, where their staff will immediately vaccinate the animal to prevent an outbreak of any disease.

The city provides $600,000 annually for SPCA’s services, $450,000 for the pound contract and $150,000 for animal protection services. SPCA has an Animal Protection Office that investigates complaints or possible incidents of animal cruelty and animal hoarding in houses. The APO also assists the Saskatoon Police Service on calls where an animal may be involved.

However, the money provided by the city is not enough to cover the costs of the services provided by SPCA to animals turned over to them by the SACA. SPCA Director for Development Trina Mortson said they had already asked the city to provide funding to cover the entire cost of their pound services.

“We have not given them a definitive number other than it costs more than $1 million [rough estimate]. Our new director of finance is still working on the forecasting of what the actual costs are,” said Mortson.

“[The] Regina Humane [Society Inc.] went through the same issues a few years ago and a consultant came in to determine what it would cost the city [Regina] to run the pound on their own and they estimated it would cost them four times as much.”

But Mortson does not support pounds operated by cities.

“What tends to happen with city-run pounds is that the animals are euthanized after their holding period. Whereas with SPCA providing shelter services, our goal is to get them all adopted.”

Mortson said SPCA also organizes events to raise additional funds and accept cash or in-kind donations from private donors.

“Obviously fundraising and support from the public varies over the years but what we have come to learn is that our fundraising efforts have been subsidizing the cost of the pound for many, many years.”

“The city provides about $600,000 annually which as I mentioned does not cover the cost of running the pound. Fundraising, grants, and other funding programs in 2019 brought in about $1.7 million.”

However, monetary donations dropped significantly last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as they only managed to collect $1.3 million and Mortson said they expect it to be lower this year.

She said the combined money provided by the city, fundraising efforts, and donations have been enough to cover the SPCA’s operating expenses this year.

“However, we know that we are facing a monthly deficit of $50,000 going forward as we have not been able to do in person fundraising events, we’ve had fewer bequests and less corporate funding.”

“I believe a lot of available funding has been going to support COVID-related initiatives (just my opinion) and individuals have not been able to continue supporting us as they have in the past. The significant point is that the Saskatoon SPCA should not be using charitable dollars to run a city program.”

“I mean extra fundraising dollars that usually come from supporters has dipped for us and they may have been redirected to supporting COVID-related needs or they simply have lost a significant portion of their income and can no longer donate to us. We were also fortunate in past years to receive large bequests which have helped us offset our operating costs.”

She said that, for now, they have extra funds to continue their operations but also revealed that it won’t last long.

“We will need to dip into our reserves to continue operating, and we will run out of reserves and need to close our doors by this time next year if the city does not increase the funding we receive for the pound.”

“There is only so much we can do to cut expenses as we still have the same number of animals to care for. Over the years we have also increased our standard of care for animals, and we cannot go back to the way things were done previously. We have cut back our staff hours as much as we can, our [finance director] is looking at ways to reduce banking fees, over head costs, etc.”

She added in-kind donations also helped them to get by.

“The public has really stepped up by helping us with our greatest needs which is wet cat food, non-clumping litter, and laundry detergent.”

“Our Amazon Wish list and calls for public support have been amazing but unless we can raise another $50,000 per month, we have to run off our reserves. Again, we should not be using fundraising dollars to cover the cost to run the pound.”

She said SPCA offers adoption and protective services, protective custody for animals that need a place to stay due to violence-related issues or their owners are in the hospital and have no one to look after their animals, and a foster-based program.

“We also try to keep the public informed about animal welfare issues and education on positive reinforcement training.”

Mortson said last year, a total of 1,563 animals (cats and dogs) were adopted through SPCA and 1,300 from January to November this year. SPCA also waived adoption fees last year in order to have the animals under their care find new homes as they too have to close down due to the COVID pandemic.

“We have few adoptions this year. Last year was somewhat of an anomaly as we had to clear the shelter by giving away animals (mostly cats) as we were shut down for a while before we were deemed an essential service and could re-open the shelter.  Even throughout the rest of the year we had to almost completely waive adoption fees to move animals through the shelter.”

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