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‘Please help us’: Vaughan cat rescue scrambling as eviction looms due to licensing issue

Click to play video 'North Toronto Cat Rescue forced to close its doors leaving cats homeless' North Toronto Cat Rescue forced to close its doors leaving cats homeless
WATCH ABOVE: North Toronto Cat Rescue has less than two weeks to find its cats a new home. The no-kill shelter hasn’t been granted the proper licence by the City of Vaughan to operate, forcing it to close its doors by March 1. The volunteer group is pleading with the city and residents for help in saving the cats’ home. Miranda Anthistle reports. – Feb 18, 2021

After 33 years of saving thousands of stray and surrendered cats, North Toronto Cat Rescue (NTCR) soon won’t have a place to call home.

“Please help us,” said founder Donna Cox. “This is so hard to close. I can’t even tell you, it breaks my heart.”

The no-kill facility helps control the feral feline population through rehabilitation and finding the cats a forever home. It’s run solely by volunteers and relies entirely on donations without any help from the government.

Located in Vaughan, the volunteer-run charity houses roughly 50 cats, but has been told by the city that it can only have three in the building, according to the bylaw.

“We’ve been closed down here. We cannot adopt out, we cannot take in. We must remove all animals,” said Cox.

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NTCR’s current home is on a property that’s set to be redeveloped in two to three years, but the rescue group said it has the money to pay for rent until then, plus its landlord has encouraged it to remain until it finds a new home. Cox said that has proven to be difficult given the pandemic.

Instead of giving the charity more time to secure a new location, the City of Vaughan said it needs a business licence to operate.

However, in a statement to Global News, it explained that “NTCR does not meet the regulatory requirements to receive a business licence … including zoning and animal control by-laws.”

Read more: Community campaign raises money to keep Toronto man and his cats in their home

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Margaret Chan has volunteered with the rescue group for half a decade and called the situation “heartbreaking.”

“They [Vaughan city council] don’t even want to consider the possibility of whether we have the grounds to apply for the licence. To us volunteers, it’s just frustrating,” said Chan who has started a birthday fundraiser for NTCR on Facebook, asking people to donate to that instead of buying presents for her this year.

“I believe in their mission, I believe in their work,” she said. “Without food, without drinkable water, without shelter, the cats will all die.”

And the harsh conditions each winter make these months the time when the shelter is needed most, explained Cox.

“There’s blood all over the snow in some [feral colony] feeding stations. Their [paw] pads are now gone from their feet and they’re crippled out there right now, and we can’t help,” she said.
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READ MORE: Should you adopt a pet during the COVID-19 pandemic?

The rescue group is pleading for help from city council, as well as from the community, looking for another building or a parcel of land it could purchase to set up a permanent home for the cats.

An online petition calling on Vaughan Mayor Maurizio Bevilacqua to intervene has received more than 32,000 signatures and a GoFundMe has also been started.

North Toronto Cat Rescue is urging residents of Vaughan to contact the mayor, along with city councillors to help rescue the shelter which has saved countless cats over the years and aims to keep doing just that for years to come.