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Lethbridge’s Last Chance Cat Ranch pounces on appeal following city stop order

Click to play video: 'Longtime cat rescue issued stop order by City of Lethbridge' Longtime cat rescue issued stop order by City of Lethbridge
The Last Chance Cat Ranch in Lethbridge is a no-kill cat rescue that’s been operational for nearly two decades. However, the non-profit is adjusting its plans because of a stop order from the city after contravening the land use bylaw. Eloise Therien has the story. – Mar 8, 2022

After nearly 17 years at its current residential address, the Last Chance Cat Ranch (LCCR) is being forced to move by the City of Lethbridge.

According to a senior administrator for the no-kill rescue, the city issued a stop order in mid-February after it determined the non-profit didn’t have the proper zoning and permits to operate as an animal rescue, in contravention of the land use bylaw.

“It told us we had one year to move from these premises,” said Nancy Giles.

Read more: 30 cats are receiving treatment after fire destroys local rescue sanctuary

“In the meantime, they have also told us that we cannot have more than two volunteers in a day coming in to work here and we can only have food delivery once a week.”

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With around 50 cats currently in their care, volunteer Velda Snell said this is an extremely difficult ask.

“It’s impossible to do just two a day, because there’s too much work,” Snell said.

Neighbours issue complaints

Talk of moving the facility has been ongoing.

Neighbour Joshua Russomanno voiced his concerns with LCCR to the city at a May 26, 2021 Community Safety Standing Policy Committee meeting. 

He outlined worries over the safety of the animals in a home as opposed to a commercial property, considering a previous fire that killed dozens of cats in 2013.

“Rather than rebuild the house and sell it and move somewhere else, they doubled down and they rebuilt the house, moving all the cats back into it,” Russomano stated during the meeting.

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“They had the option to move once already, (and because) they didn’t the house isn’t even livable despite being about five years old.”

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He also voiced concern over the eyesore created by the “catio” spaces in the backyard and the lack of a cat bylaw to limit the number of felines allowed in one home.

He said he tried to speak with the operators, without much luck.

“All I would like to say at this time is the LCCR is a great organization with a great cause,” Russomanno told Global News.

“As the owner of two rescues cats and a rescue dog, I wish them the best of luck finding their new location!”

Value of cat bylaws

Dan Kobe, communications manager with the Alberta Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), said they encourage all municipalities to adopt cat bylaws for the protection of the animals.

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“Cats seem to be the forgotten animals in many communities,” Kobe explained. “If there isn’t a cat bylaw then there is no means for dealing with free-roaming cats.”

He said the amount of cats someone has doesn’t automatically dictate the quality of care they receive, adding they receive calls from Lethbridge when people find stray animals.

“Unfortunately that means individuals or a groups like (LCCR) are the ones left trying to care for those animals. We appreciate that they have to do it.

“Ultimately, we’d love to see municipalities step up and make sure that the animals in their communities are well taken care of one way or another.”

Read more: Nova Scotia veterinary clinic provides a temporary home to 6 cats displaced by house fire

What's next for LCCR?

In a statement, the City of Lethbridge said the LCCR has been given time to make the transition to ensure the animals can be cared for.

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“When the city issues a stop order, there is an operational process that is followed by city staff. To be fair to all parties, there is also a clearly-defined appeal process through the Subdivision and Development Appeal Board (SDAB). At this time, the Last Chance Cat Ranch has filed an appeal to the SDAB and that process will be followed, as per legislation.”

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Giles said they have appealed the decision, with a meeting scheduled for March 31 at 4 p.m.

They plan to move locations even if the appeal is successful, but “the rush won’t be there.”

“The work of the Last Chance Cat Ranch has been a valued service in our community and we thank the dedicated volunteers that have helped the organization over the years,” the city added.

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