BY LANA MICHELIN
When Red Deer and District SPCA staffers weren’t taking in hordes of bunnies, they were busy making space for groups of rescued dogs and feral cats.
“2016 was an interesting year,” concluded executive-director Tara Hellewell.
Several “mass” groupings of cats, dogs and rabbits were brought in to the facility by the Alberta SPCA after being seized from abusive or neglectful owners. “We were working with larger volumes than usual,” added Hellewell, who believes members of the public have been quicker to call in when they suspect cases of abuse.
Among the rescued creatures were 63 rabbits that were found overrunning a rural property in June. Hellewell said most of these were adopted out, although 16 bunnies are still awaiting permanent homes.
A month ago, a dozen feral cats were seized. Hallewell said this was a “challenging” situation since the cats had health issues. They are also wild and need to be adopted as barn cats.
Shelter staff took in other pets that were abandoned because of Central Alberta’s poor economy. Hellewell said some Red Deer-area residents who lost their jobs and houses could no longer keep their dogs or cats because of no-pets rules at rental properties. “We try to be as compassionate as possible in these cases.”
Although the shelter is running at capacity all the time — “you could say we’re maxed out” — pet drop-off requests are regularly “triage-ed” and more urgent ones get priority status. Hellewell said the shelter was so full earlier this year, there was a three-month wait before new cats could be admitted. The wait is now about a month.
Currently there are 160 cats, 30 dogs, 16 rabbits and four guinea pigs in need of adoption.
While Christmas can be a busy time of year, Hellewell said some folks take time off over the holidays — which can allow a new pet to get used to a new situation.
As pressure to take in more animals has increased, donations have dropped off — also because of the economy, said Hellewell. As a result, she’s had to pare down the SPCA’s annual $1-million budget by 17 per cent — “which was hard to do when our operation is already very lean.”
Hellewell hopes area residents who can afford to give this Christmas will remember the SPCA. Cash donations are particularly welcome for taking care of animals’ medical needs.