ANIMAL WELFARE: Planning for new SPCA shelter

A new SPCA building to replace the cramped, outdated space currently in use could be reality within the next couple of years.

“It’s in the preliminary planning stages,” said Tanya Stephens, chairperson for the SPCA board of directors.

“We are in the midst of creating a strategic plan.”

Stephens, who was speaking at an open house on Sunday at the Brant County SPCA on Mohawk Street, said the current building, constructed in 1969, is dated, too small and in frequent need of repair. It also has a layout that’s not ideal and isn’t accessible to those with disabilities.

“It’s just 2,000 square feet,” Stephens said of the building. That’s smaller than most people’s homes.

“It was built in the late ’60s when the population of the city was 50,000. Now that has doubled.”

Branch manager Robin Kuchma said the shelter is perpetually filled beyond its capacity, especially at this time of year when cat intake is up from 100 per month to about 325 a month.

“Our goal is to never euthanize an adoptable or healthy animal,” she said. “My goal has always been to build a new shelter for this community.”

Stephens said a new facility will include an on-site spay and neutering clinic and a community room where staff can offer public education, birthday parties and summer camps.

She said it has yet to be determined if the building would be new or a retrofit of an existing building. She estimates the cost, depending on which option is chosen, would be between $3 million and $5 million.

A building fund for the project currently includes $1 million. Stephens said a public fundraising campaign would likely be established.

“The public is so supportive of us. I think they would be excited to be part of this.”

The animal shelter last year adopted out 1,600 animals, mostly dogs and cats, but also rabbits, guinea pigs, gerbils and other creatures. It also returns lost animals, mostly dogs, to its owners on a daily basis.

The shelter has an annual operating budget of about $1 million, of which about $370,000 is paid by the city for animal control. The remainder comes from fundraising, said Kuchma.

She said the SPCA finds creative ways to make due with its inadequate facility. That includes a foster and surrender program. When people find stray cats or kittens they are asked to foster them until homes are found. The SPCA provides all the supplies.

Kuchma said she is almost ready to launch a new trap, neuter and release program for “community” cats. She said it’s the only way to successfully combat the overpopulation of the animals.

Kuchma also would like to establish a pets for life program that would provide aid to pet owners living below the poverty line.

Sunday’s open house also was an opportunity for those who have adopted pets, foster families, donors, volunteers and community partners to visit the shelter and Park 4 Paws, a commemorative garden behind the facility.

Special guests were many of the Morkies, a mix of Maltese and Yorkie, rescued in from deplorable conditions at a home in Paris last July. The dogs were found rolling around in their own feces and had fur so heavily matted it couldn’t be combed. The Brant County SPCA rescued 88 dogs and two cats from the house and adopted them to loving owners.

“It gets emotional when I see these dogs now all fluffed and buffed and happy,” said Kuchma.

“It’s so rewarding to know we’ve made a big difference.”

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