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Help Save the Saint John SPCA Animal Rescue

Help Save the Saint John SPCA Animal Rescue

Hi Everyone, If you haven't read the paper this morning unfortunately the Saint John SPCA will have to close their doors on Sept 8th.. The article of the paper is below. SAINT JOHN – After 99 years of helping animals find homes, the Saint John SPCA Animal Rescue will close – leaving the lives of dozens of cats and dogs in question – if it does not find a sudden influx of cash. It would take $1 million to keep the shelter open, said Melody McElman, president of the board of directors. Otherwise, crippling financial difficulties will force the non-profit organization to close its Bayside Drive shelter next Saturday. It would mean 15 people will lose their jobs and dozens of dogs and cats will need to find temporary homes – either in other shelters or locally, she said. Failing that, the dogs and cats may have to be euthanized, McElman said Friday afternoon through tears, after meeting with staff. “We can’t catch up any longer,” McElman said. “We’ve been putting our own money in to cover payroll the last few weeks out of our own pockets. We can’t keep going.” McElman figures the organization, which owns three properties, owes at least $70,000 to local businesses. She said it would take $1 million for the shelter to stay open. There are now five dogs and 75 cats in the shelter, along with 50 cats in foster homes. There is also an eight-week waiting list for cats to get into the shelter – meaning residents who find a stray cat have to wait eight weeks before they can hand it over. Employees gathered around the front desk Friday afternoon cried openly as McElman raised the possibility of euthanizing the animals who don’t find homes. “What else could we do?” asked Terry Goodwin, who has cared for shelter dogs and cats for 30 years. “Put them on the street like everybody else?” Cathy Fair, who has worked at the shelter for about 28 years, said it was difficult to hear she would lose her job, but as the bookkeeper, she knew the shelter could not operate in its current state for much longer. “I’m glad it’s out in the open,” she said, adding the public needs to understand the shelter’s fiscal reality. Financial issues have been beleaguering the shelter for years, but things became progressively worse when city budget cuts, tied to the massive pension deficit, led to a drastic reduction in animal control services. This spring, the animal shelter refused to provide the animal control under the reduced budget of $80,000, down from $153,000 last year. The shelter was already losing money with the previous contract, former board chairwoman Jacqui Whiting has said. McElman said the shelter was close to negotiating a new contract for dogs only, but funds from such an agreement wouldn’t have been enough to keep the group afloat. She added that she does not blame the city for the shelter’s financial problems. The shelter recently moved to Bayside Drive from a decrepit building on Taylor Avenue in the north end, which still hasn’t sold. SPCA officials had told the organization they had to vacate because of health problems and improper kennels. So the Saint John group had to find a new home fast. They bought the Bayside Drive property, and paid for it to be retrofitted quickly. “They took a risk. It didn’t work,” McElman said. The Saint John SPCA Animal Rescue had already bought the former site of Peacock’s Flowers Garden on Sandy Point Road, which is paid for with cash a few years ago. The original plan was to launch a capital campaign to build a new shelter, but those plans changed after they were forced to leave Taylor Avenue last December. The SPCA Animal Rescue had hoped to sell the Peacock property to the Joshua Group by the end of the summer. The sale is contingent on the Joshua Group’s fundraising. All the while, the economic downturn has led to a decrease in donations and an increase in the number of animals coming through the shelter doors, McElman said. As more animals arrive, veterinarian and food bills rise too. In July, a new board of directors made the difficult decision of laying off Kari Poore, the shelter’s executive director. “That was a big blow, and we’ve just been crippling along, and revenues have been coming in, but it’s just covering the bare essentials,” McElman said. “But bills have built up.” McElman said there is a chance the board could reverse its decision to close the shelter if the public comes forward with offers of help. Anyone who wants to make a donation can call 642-0931.

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