The 2022-23 provincial budget tabled Wednesday doubles the funding for Animal Protection Services of Saskatchewan (APSS) to $1.6 million for the organization to take on animal protection services previously provided by the city’s SPCA.
The provincial government funds APSS to respond to reports of animals in distress across Saskatchewan, excluding the province’s two largest cities. As of April 1, the organization will also be responsible for Saskatoon, where the provincial government has never funded animal protection services.
“Our mission and mandate is to improve the quality of life for animals in Saskatoon, and for the first time, the provincial government is investing in that,” said Graham Dickson, executive director of the Saskatoon SPCA. “So it really is a victory for us.”
Without provincial backing, the Saskatoon SPCA had been funding animal welfare enforcement through donations.
Going forward, donations can go toward proactive programming to keep animals from landing in the shelter in the first place, according to Dickson.
APSS will use the new $800,000 to hire staff including two animal protection officers for Saskatoon – the same number previously employed by the SPCA. Provincially, at full staff, 10 animal protection officers will work in the organization.
The new funding will also pay for a dispatcher, according to Don Ferguson, executive director of APSS.
Ferguson described Wednesday’s budget allocation as “a significant investment in animal welfare in the province.”
APSS, the City of Saskatoon and Saskatoon Police Service will collaborate on enforcement beginning in April, building toward APSS conducting full enforcement by the fall.
The Saskatoon Animal Control Agency will provide enforcement during the transition period, and Saskatoon police officers continue to have authority to lay charges in cases of animal cruelty.
“Animal welfare is a shared responsibility and collaboration is and will continue to be important when it comes to investigation and enforcement,” reads an email to Global News from Saskatoon Police Service spokesperson Brad Jennings.
In a news release, Saskatchewan Agriculture Minister David Marit said the government will continue to work with the parties during the transition.
“We appreciate the work of Saskatoon SPCA and Animal Protection Services of Saskatchewan in support of the humane treatment and well-being of animals,” said Marit said.
Saskatoon Mayor Charlie Clark told reporters Wednesday that he was concerned about the risk of an agreement not being made by April 1.
“I’m glad to see that the province is now recognizing that they need to fund it in the cities as well as in the rest of the province,” Clark said.
The Saskatoon SPCA’s next move, according to Dickson, is to appeal to a Saskatoon city committee for more money to fund municipal pound services.
The current funding level only covers about 37 per cent of pound operations, Dickson said.
People concerned about animal welfare in Saskatoon can continue calling the existing animal services number: 306-975-8478.