Saskatoon city committee recommends more SPCA funding but less than wanted

The head of the animal welfare agency, and an agency veterinarian, said they may have to euthanize more animals without further funding. File / Global News

A Saskatoon city committee voted to give the Saskatoon SPCA more support, but fell short of the minimum SPCA staff say they need.

“Our reserves are only so deep,” executive director Graham Dickson said, in an interview with Global News.

“We can only dig so far into them if we don’t come to some kind of an agreement with the city by the end of this calendar year, by October.”

On Tuesday, the planning, development and community services committee voted to raise the city’s overall level of support to $698,000 in interim funding for 2022 to the SPCA, though the agency was hoping for $1.16 million at most and close to $900,000 at least.

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The city is already providing the SPCA $466,00 for this year.

The administration was working with the SPCA after the group came to city budget deliberations last year and outlined their financial shortfalls. The failure to find common ground brought the society back.

The discrepancy lies in what city and SPCA staff believe to be the costs of providing pound services.

The SPCA is contracted by the city to run the pound — meaning it can’t turn away animals brought in by animal control. It holds them for 96 hours (starting on midnight of the day the animal is brought in) before trying to set them up for adoption.

Emma Caldwell, former director of animal care, said about 30 per cent of those animals aren’t healthy and require veterinarian visits and additional attention — which costs more money.

“We’re not a doggy daycare looking after pets with caring owners… We care for approximately 100 animals at a time on any given day, around of those 30 in the city pound and about 70 unclaimed animals that have since become SPCA property,” she said.

Dickson told the committee the SPCA, like most non-profits, received fewer donations in the past two years. And even though it is closed to the public wishing to drop off animals, he said they are overburdened.

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The head of animal control, who spoke in support of greater funding for the SPCA, said the city is overrun by an “unlimited” number of cats.

“Our agency gets daily phone calls from individuals who no longer want or can keep their cat,” Eva Alexandrovici said.

“They tell us they will let them lose or simply abandon them if we don’t pick them up.”

She told the committee members there aren’t enough agencies to handle the number of cats.

Dr. Sandra Neumann, SPCA veterinarian and former board member, said they may have to start putting animals down without more funding.

“One of the consequences will be that animals needing medical attention will have to be euthanized upon entering the pound before their legal hold period is over,” she stated.

“We’re so under-resourced that we’re actually in danger of ourselves becoming the cause of animals in distress,” Dickson said in an interview.

Councillors were sympathetic but acknowledged, as did SPCA staff, that the ask comes at a bad time.

The funding goes above the current contract, which expires at the end of 2023.

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The request also comes after two years of the city struggling with the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting loss of revenue, plus a major blizzard in 2020 that required a costly clean-up.

Ward 2 Councillor Hilary Gough called the $688,000 amount an interim solution.

“I understand it’s not fully satisfactory to all parties but from my perspective I need to be responsible to the rate payers of Saskatoon,” she said.

Dickson said he’s optimistic the SPCA and city will reach a new understanding.

He also said the group will likely leave the contract before being forced to harm animals.

Council will vote on the issue at the end of the month.

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