Discovery Channel to highlight work done by local animal hospital

The Regional Animal Protection Society cat sanctuary is a one-of-a-kind facility in Canada, among the largest in North America.

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Come for the paw-ty, stay for the purr.

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Discovery Channel has a new TV series called Pets and Pickers highlighting the work done by the Richmond-based Regional Animal Protection Society (RAPS) on May 10 in advance, fund raising screening before the series makes its on-air debut May 12.

Yes, popcorn is included in your $25 ticket for the screening at the Sheraton Vancouver Airport’s ballroom (7-9 pm on Tuesday); all money raised goes to RAPS and the work they do. The screening coincides with the April 30 reopening of the cat sanctuary to visitors, another important source of funding for RAPS, Eyal Lichtmann, CEO of the society, said.

“That’s huge for us,” Lichtmann said. “COVID hit us financially really, really hard.”

Pets and Pickers is a Storage Wars-type reality show, with ‘pickers’ going through 175 abandoned storage bins donated by U-Pak for the society’s thrift store. Each bin has 15,000 liters of space.

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“You could put your whole condo in there,” Lichtmann said. “It’s really exciting what we’ve found, everything crazy you can think of.”

One container was full of S&M paraphernalia, another included a deactivated bomb, one more had only cookies inside — 10,000 cookies.

Other items discovered so far — there are two bins opened per show — include an original Star Wars script, expensive art and jewelry, stamp and coin collections, never-worn clothes, furniture and kitchen items, as well as your more pedestrian finds of weapons and drugs.

Money raised goes to veterinary care.

The Applewood Auto Group donated 7,000 square feet of space to RAPS for 15 years, Vancity helped out with financing to open the animal hospital and local builders donated $350,000 of free build. Donors paid for ultrasound and X-ray machines, even for Canada’s only animal hyperbaric chamber.

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In all, Lichtmann said, the Regional Animal Protection Society has given back more than $3 million toward animal health and care.

Eyal Lichtmann, executive director of the Regional Animal Protection Society, and Shena Novotny, manager of the adoption center and cat sanctuary, with some of their feline boarders in Richmond on Tuesday.
Eyal Lichtmann, executive director of the Regional Animal Protection Society, and Shena Novotny, manager of the adoption center and cat sanctuary, with some of their feline boarders in Richmond on Tuesday. Photo by Jason Payne /PNG

The society started in 1995, taking care of feral cats in Richmond. That led to today’s cat sanctuary and the 500-plus cats homed there. These days, the minute the society is notified of a feral colony they trap the cats, spay and neuter them all, and the ones that can be socialized are adopted out.

If a feral cat can’t be socialized, it’s kept at the sanctuary for life; RAPS doesn’t do trap-and-release after a cat is spayed or neutered.

“There’s really no feral-cat problem in Richmond anymore,” Lichtmann said.

If there’s an animal group in BC or the SPCA that’s bigger, or a cat sanctuary in Canada as large as the facility in Richmond, Lichtmann hasn’t heard of them.

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Staffing has had to be reduced because of the pandemic and the society relies heavily on volunteers to put out 400 cans of dry and wet cat food a day, change hundreds of litter boxes twice a day, and track every cat with medical issues to give them their prescriptions morning and night.

The sanctuary is open to the public between 1 and 4 pm on Saturdays and Sundays, admission to help cover costs is $12. Visitors will be greeted not just by friendly felines, Lichtmann said, but also by a facility that is a Club Med for cats.

“It’s a beautiful, beautiful place,” Lichtmann said.

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