The Fort McMurray SPCA’s shelter is almost full, straining the organization’s finances after COVID-19 restrictions caused most fundraising efforts to be cancelled. To care for the growing number of animals at the shelter, the SPCA is launching an online emergency fundraiser with the goal of hitting at least $50,000.
There are at least 85 animals at the shelter, but the SPCA usually cares for no more than 60 animals during a normal period. The SPCA’s annual masquerade ball usually raises between $30,000 and $50,000 annually, but the 2020 ball was cancelled because of the pandemic. The SPCA voted not to hold a ball in October because if COVID-19 restrictions returned, the organization cannot afford to absorb cancellation costs.
“We have a lot of office cats at the moment,” said Melanie Schneider, acting executive director for the SPCA, in an interview.
“All our animals need to be vaccinated, dewormed, health-checked and spayed or neutered. All that comes with a cost and on top of that we are seeing an increase in people wanting to surrender their animals. For us to keep caring for all the animals, we need the funds to be able do that.”
The SPCA had seen a rise in adoptions during the pandemic, but in recent months there has been an uptick in animals dropped off at the shelter. Schneider said it is difficult to determine the shelter’s maximum capacity for animals. The organization has to consider variables such as litter sizes, and health-related concerns that could demand more financial support and services.
The stressed capacity is pushing the organization to a financial breaking point. In 2019, the SPCA raised more than $219,000, but in 2020 pulled in $85,000. The Fort McMurray SPCA had raised $32,000 this year before launching its online fundraiser.
“We need to make sure we get ahead of this financially,” said Schneider. “We are seeing a lot more animals come in that aren’t healthy animals. Those animals need more from us than standard care. We just had four animals come in that required dental work and that’s roughly $1,500 to $2,000 per animal.”
Schneider added much of the recent uptick has been caused by unplanned litters arriving at the shelter. The economic and social fallout of COVID-19 is also making it harder for some people to care for animals.
“Some of our intake is coming from people losing their jobs due to COVID and not being able to afford supporting an animal,” said Schneider. “But we are also seeing a lot of juvenile animals and I can’t stress enough how important it is to spay or neuter your pets so that you don’t have an unplanned litter.”
Scott McLean, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Fort McMurray Today