It’s kitten season, and the SPCA is taking flak

One of the cats surrendered by the hoarder last Friday. This one is pregnant. Arthur White-Crummey/Daily Herald

The onset of warm weather always brings an onrush of cats to the Prince Albert SPCA. It’s what shelter operations manager Liana Maloney calls “kitten season.”

Currently, the shelter’s feline accommodations are full. They have more than 50 cats in house. Seventeen of them came just last week, and staff had to turn away a few people who came in with strays.

That’s led to public criticism, especially in light of a Daily Herald report that the SPCA just accepted nine cats from a hoarder in Nipawin, outside of the shelter’s usual area of operations.

Maloney is aware of the flak. She’s read the comments on Facebook from people worried the shelter can’t, or won’t, care for local animals. She wants her critics to know that the hoarding rescues won’t be in town for long.

“We wouldn’t be taking them in without a plan,” she said, “We are just transitioning the cats through and that was the plan in the first place.”

Maloney said the nine cats will be going to a shelter in B.C. called Greater Victoria Animal Crusaders, and to the Fort McMurray SPCA. She said all the arrangements have been made, and the cats should be leaving in about three days.

Eight of the nine cats are currently in a room in the front section of the shelter. But Maloney said they aren’t taking up eight spaces that city cats would otherwise occupy. Most new arrivals get sent to the back, to be quarantined for a few days in individual cages. Since the hoarding rescues all came from one home, she said, they could all be quarantined together.

“They’re only taking up one space,” she said. “It’s not like we’re taking them and blocking the cages for other people.”

Another cat, who is pregnant, is in the shelter’s examination room.

The shelter receives public funding to act as the city’s pound. But the funding arrangement only obliges them to take animals brought in by city bylaw officers, not those found by private citizens. In the first nine months of 2016, they took 345 bylaw animals, 375 other city animals and 235 animals from outside Prince Albert. That means that about three quarters of the animals they admitted came from inside city limits.

In the 2016 city budget, the SPCA received $226,000. An amount which, according to the society’s expense report, doesn’t even cover the cost of local animals. The extra money comes from donations and fundraising activities, not taxpayers.

Maloney admits that, for the animals from Nipawin, she could have called provincial animal control officers. But she said there aren’t any shelters in Saskatchewan with space for cats right now. She also expressed concern that the province, unlike the Prince Albert SPCA, sometimes euthanizes animals when they can’t find anywhere to put them.

If that were the case, Maloney said, the hoarder – who still has up to 30 cats – wouldn’t have parted with her beloved animals.

“For us to try to force her hand when she knows they’re going to be euthanized, that’s a much longer process and it’s not going to help anyone.”

Despite the space constraints, Maloney said that the shelter will still work with people who find strays. They’ll put the cats on a waiting list, and hand out free food and litter to help families who find them act as temporary foster homes.

She encouraged people to call the SPCA for more information. Residents can also consider calling bylaw officers.

Maloney knows people get frustrated when the shelter gets full, but she said it’s the only way to avoid the “horrible option” of becoming a kill shelter.

“None of us want that,” she said. “You might have to wait a week to get your animal in, but at the end of the day, it’s not going to die.”