Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Pincher Creek Humane Society faces operational crisis

Josh Davis – The Pincher Creek Humane Society/SPCA (PCHS) appeared as a delegation at the Tuesday June 28 meeting of the Council for the Municipal District #9 of Pincher Creek. Led by the new PCHS President Roxane Baalim, the delegation discussed with council the issues of reducing veterinary costs, and creating a sustainable funding model. According to the delegation, if PCHS continues on the financial path they are on, they will quickly run out of money, and be forced to close their facility. According to Baalim, the best alternative for the PCHS is to look to their partners in the community to address their challenges. Reeve Brian Hammond called this a “situation of crisis,” and stated that the PCHS cannot wait until the joint funding discussion for 2017 to address these issues. “The level of urgency is kind of important here,” said Hammond.

Baalim, a retired RCMP officer with 25 years of experience policing in rural communities, put her name up for the position of President of the PCHS in May of this year. In a letter addressed to MD Council sent by Baalim on June 8 she stated the following:

"The last few years have seen the PCHS achieve some great milestones thanks to the hard work of current and past Board members, municipal governments (Town & MD) and the community at large. We have moved into a new building, we have seen our public profile grow immensely resulting in significant increase in both intakes and adoptions. We have a very successful partnership with PetSmart in Lethbridge and have seen our membership increase as a result of various fundraising efforts and public relations events.

As result of our own successes we are also facing some very daunting challenges as well. Our current funding structure is under review but as it stands today, is not able to sustain our growth. Our major expenditures are veterinary costs and salaries. We pay our staff very little in comparison to what they deserve. They are extremely committed individuals who give freely of their time, their love for the animals in our care and they expend tremendous energy to improving the welfare of animals in need in our community. At present, we are unable to have open hours to the public and are operating on both minimum staffing hours and wages.

As a non- profit society we are obligated to do everything within our control to be financially responsible with the funds we are entrusted with. I believe there are two things that need serious consideration and review in order for the PCHS to be sustainable, financially and operationally. We need a funding model that is reflective of our current situation and that is viable. And, we need to reduce veterinary costs."

“You mentioned in this that one of your big costs are veterinary costs,” said Councillor Quentin Stevick. “The University of Calgary has a very good veterinary school. Have you contacted, or do you work with, U of C Veterinary College to send their students down here for practicums for your spay and neuter?” asked Stevick.

“We don't have what would be considered the proper facilities,” answered Baalim. The delegation explained that while there are two vet clinics within town, accessing them is an issue. According to the delegation, the idea has been discussed with, and gone unsupported by, the clinic owners.

“One of the unique circumstances we find ourselves in in the Pincher Creek Humane Society is that we don’t have onsite veterinary care,” explained veterinary surgeon Dr. Terri Argument*. “What we do is we heavily utilize our two local services, and they’ve been wonderful for us. Unfortunately we face the fact that they’re running a business.”

“Does the MD not pay the vet bills for any animals that come from the MD?” asked CAO Wendy Kay. Baalim confirmed that both the MD and the Town do cover those costs, but that it only covers animals that are seized, not those that are surrendered.

Reeve Hammond questioned what the PCHS was doing to address issues within their funding model. Argument said that the information has been collected and will be sent to the MD. “That does propose perhaps a more sustainable type of funding structure,” said Argument.

“Where are the greater percentage of clients coming from?” asked Councillor Fred Shoening. Argument said they are dispersed nearly evenly from rural area (MD), town, and Piikani Nation.

“I do plan on sending a similar letter to chief and council at the Piikani Nation. They’ve always been good about working with the Alberta spay and neuter programs.” Argument also explained that they are looking into grant opportunities and fundraising initiatives. “We are taking a full-fledged approach to the issue.”

* Corrected for accuracy, with apologies to Dr. Argument.

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